France has ruled out any military involvement in the Central African Republic. This comes a day after President Francois Hollande ordered troops stationed in the country to step up security at France’s embassy in Bangui.
President Hollande told reporters at a wholesale food market on the outskirts of Paris on Thursday that French soldiers would not get involved if the government of the government of Central African Republic (CAR) came under threat.
"If we have a presence, it's not to protect a regime, it's to protect our nationals and our interests and in no way to intervene in the internal business of a country, in this case the Central African Republic," Hollande said. "Those days are over," he added.
France, which has intervened militarily in its former colony in the past, is facing growing pressure to do so again. On Wednesday, President Hollande ordered French soldiers to increase security at the embassy in the capital, Bangui, after protesters demanding that France intervene in support of the government, threw stones and the building then tore down the tricolor from its roof.
Meanwhile, a government minister appealed to France for help.
"We expect France to come to our aid," the CAR's minister for territorial administration, Josue Binoua, said in an interview posted on Radio France International's website.
Rebels' intention unclear
This came as troops from the Seleka rebel coalition continued an offensive bringing them to within around 300 kilometers (200 miles) of Bangui. The coalition is made up rebels who accuse President Francois Bozize of failing to live up to the terms of peace accords signed between 2007 and 2011. Among other things, the accords included provisions for financial and other support for rebels who laid down their arms.
Although the rebels have said they don't plan to take the capital, the United Nations is not convinced.
"Their contradictory messages and their continued military offensive seem to indicate that they might be intent on taking Bangui," spokesman Martin Nesirky told the AFP news agency, when asked on Wednesday why the UN had ordered non-essential staff to leave the country.
"The temporary relocation is a precautionary measure to reduce our presence in the event the security situation further deteriorates in Bangui," Nesirky added.
pfd/hc (Reuters, AFP, AP)