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Central African rebels hold ministers

By AFP

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AFP) - Central African rebels were Monday holding five ministers -- who joined the country's unity government from rebel ranks after a peace deal -- and threatened to resume hostilities if their demands were not met, officials said.

The five had travelled to the city of Sibut, north of the capital Bangui, as part of a delegation to meet representatives of the Seleka rebel coalition to discuss the application of the peace deal, Security Minister Josue Binoua told AFP.

Rebel Colonel Djouma Narkoyo said the insurgents were demanding that the government make good on the promises it made in the deal clinched two months ago in Libreville.

"We are giving the government 72 hours to respond to these demands, failing which Seleka will resume hostilities," he told AFP.

The five ministers being held include some of the leading members of Seleka.

Seleka has remained critical of the government since joining it, threatening to pull out of the power-sharing deal, accusing President Francois Bozize of running a parallel cabinet and so far balking on the key issue of troop billeting.

It has also demanded the release of political prisoners.

The January peace accord mediated by regional leaders provided for a new government of national unity, which was formed and is now led by a member of the opposition, Nicolas Tiangaye.

The deal ended a month-old Seleka offensive that quickly swept through the country's north and was stopped thanks in part to Chadian military intervention before the rebels could threaten Bangui.

But the peace pact has been fragile.

On Sunday the United States said it was concerned about an uptick in violence in the Central African Republic, and said the treaty's signatories "should therefore act within this political framework and refrain from acts that undermine it."

Last week, four Central African soldiers were killed Monday in a rebel assault on a southern town.

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