Troops have continued to patrol a buffer zone in Central African Republic, despite an assurance from rebels that they have halted their advance on the capital.
The Seleka fighters, who have agreed to start peace talks, pushed to within striking distance of Bangui after a three-week onslaught and threatened to oust President Francois Bozize.
Regionally-backed troops are defending the town of Damara, north of the capital.
“If the rebels decide to approach Damara, they know they will encounter a force that will react,” said Jean Felix Akaga, Central African Multinational Force General.
“I assure you that Damara is held, and Bangui is safe.”
Reassured by the prospect of peace talks, hundreds of residents who fled the capital have now started returning.
The recent unrest sent people across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The rebel advance is the latest in a series of revolts in a country at the heart of one of Africa’s most turbulent regions.
According to diplomatic sources, the peace negotiations could get underway in a week’s time.
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