New government meets in Central African Republic

A government of national unity formed in the Central African Republic after a peace pact between the regime and rebels has held its first meeting, national radio reported Friday.

President Francois Bozize said that the "gravity and extent of the latest troubles to affect the (country) can only the better show up the immensity, the weight and the delicacy of the (government's) task in bringing about the implementation of the Libreville (peace) accords" signed on January 11 by the previous government, rebels and the opposition, in a speech broadcast by the radio.

The agreement signed in the Gabonese capital to end an insurgency launched by rebels of the Seleka coalition in December provided for a halt to conflict in the highly unstable, deeply poor country, and for the formation of the new government headed by an opposition politician.

The task of prime minister was given to Nicolas Tiangaye, while members of the Seleka -- which means "alliance" -- were given government portfolios, but the former rebels later complained they had been short-changed by Bozize, who has held power since a 2003 coup.

"In reality, these (Libreville) accords can be resumed in a fundamental point, which is to continue to strengthen the rebuilding of the state and to establish its firm authority across the whole territory, so that calm can return to our soil and Centrafrican people can feel at home," Bozize added.

The former general, who was twice elected back into office, said that the government's job was to restore peace and security, organise parliamentary elections after the dissolution of the National Assembly, and to pursue the process of disarmament, demobilisation and social reinsertion of former rebels that has already led to peace with several movements.

Bozize called for a reform of the security sector, with the help of the international community, as well as social change.

The Seleka offensive that began on December 10 brought the rebels within striking distance of Bangui, but the rebels bowed to strong pressure by regional leaders in the Economic Community of Central African States to negotiate with Bozize. They finally dropped a demand that he step down.

The formation of the new government was long delayed and the ex-rebels and political opposition accused Bozize of stalling. Under the Libreville accord, the president cannot dismiss the prime minister.