US condemns rebel takeover of Central Africa

The United States on Saturday condemned the rebel takeover of the Central African Republic and called for a rapid return to constitutional government after the country's latest coup.

"The United States remains deeply concerned about the serious deterioration in the security situation in the Central African Republic," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

"We strongly condemn the illegitimate seizure of power by force by the Seleka rebel alliance, Michel Djotodia's self-appointment as president, and his suspension of the constitution and National Assembly."

The statement said Washington continues to recognise the national unity government led by Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye as the "only legitimate government" in the impoverished and frequently unstable country.

Tiangaye was appointed under a January peace deal between the rebels and President Francois Bozize's regime, and has said he will stay on in the job.

The rebels toppled Bozize on the grounds that he had failed to honour the terms of the peace pact which was signed in the Gabonese capital of Libreville after a December offensive.

The US called on coup leaders to "quickly establish an open and legitimate process leading to presidential elections and the re-establishment of a constitutional government."

Earlier this week, the United States warned it could freeze some $2.2 million in US aid to the Central African Republic in the wake of the coup.

The Red Cross said Friday it had found some 78 bodies in the streets of the Central African Republic's capital since it fell to rebels last weekend.

Tiangaye was due to announce the composition of the new government soon, as the rebels tried to restore political stability.

The United Nations meanwhile has warned tens of thousands of people in the impoverished and notoriously unstable country face severe food shortages.

Drinking water and electricity were cut off in parts of the capital Bangui, whose seizure on Sunday by the Seleka rebel coalition -- led by strongman Djotodia -- forced Bozize to flee and sparked a rampage by armed looters.

Djotodia, a former diplomat and civil servant who turned to rebellion in 2005, said Saturday that he would "hand over power" in 2016, when he plans to organise polls.