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Leaders weigh C.Africa crisis as Chad implicated in coup

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Central Africa's post-coup crisis will come under the spotlight at a regional summit in Chad on Wednesday, as ousted leader Francois Bozize accuses his former Chadian allies of backing the rebels who unseated him.

South African President Jacob Zuma will attend the meeting as he faces prickly questions over the presence of his troops in the country, 13 of whom were killed in the bloody battle for Bangui.

Bozize, who fled Bangui in the face of the assault by the rebel Seleka coalition a little over a week ago, has accused Chadian special forces of leading the fighting, in an interview with BBC Africa.

His charges came as the region's military giant hosts a meeting of the Economic Community Of Central African States (ECCAS) to find a way to give the rebel regime a semblance of legitimacy.

The presidents of Congo, Gabon, Benin and Equatorial Guinea arrived in N'Djamena on Wednesday morning.

A diplomatic source said the six-nation bloc sought to create a national transition council led by rebel president Michel Djotodia and "regain a little international legitimacy".

The international community is expected to press Djotodia for guarantees that he will leave power in 2016, when he has promised elections, and possibly accelerate the transition.

"The transition must not last three years. Good transitions are those which do not last," African Union peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told AFP.

Ousted leader Bozize -- last reported in Cameroon seeking asylum in Benin -- said he had been refused a seat at the summit, convened by Chad's President Idriss Deby.

Observers have said Bozize appears to have been left in the lurch by Chad, a once-powerful ally which helped him mount a coup in 2003.

"It is difficult to believe Deby did not know about it. If he didn't encourage it, he let it happen," said a source close to the rebellion.

A recent report from the International Crisis Group said Chad was "suspected of having dubious relations with Seleka".

Some 400 Chadian soldiers formed part of a multinational African peacekeeping force (Fomac), sent to stabilise the country in 2008.

However it was South African soldiers stationed in the capital who came up against the rebels on March 23-24, as they stormed the capital after a January peace deal collapsed.

The fight left 13 South African troops dead and a scandal in Pretoria.

"It was Chadian special forces that led the operation on the Sunday morning and attacked the base of the South Africans," Bozize told the BBC.

South African defence analyst Helmoed Heitman backed up these claims in a detailed account of the battle in the Sunday Independent.

"The attacking force was far different from the 'rag tag' rebel force originally reported: Most of them in standardised uniforms with proper webbing and with flak jackets, new AK47s and heavy weapons up to 23mm cannons," he wrote in the South African newspaper.

"It was also clear that many were not from the CAR, some speaking with Chad accents and others having distinctly Arabic features."

South Africa's heaviest military loss since apartheid has raised prickly questions for Zuma over why his troops were sent to an area where South Africa has no immediate strategic interests.

South Africa's main opposition has demanded an immediate pull-out of the troops while local media reports suggest the soldiers were protecting private business interests.

Zuma on Tuesday dismissed these as "conspiracy theories", saying a contingent was sent to train local forces and provide protection for the now deposed president Bozize under a 2007 deal.

Central African sources close to the presidency and security sources say Zuma and Bozize had signed accords "giving South African businesses access to oil, diamond and gold riches".

In exchange, South Africa would defend Bozize's regime.

"Bozize's accords with South Africa were not in the interest of the country but in keeping Bozize in power. They lost militarily. They must leave and forget about it," a leading Seleka rebel said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130403/leaders-weigh-cafrica-crisis-chad-implicated-coup-0