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Presidential protection force begins withdrawal

The Djiboutian contingent of a presidential protection force in the Central African Republic is to withdraw on Friday, CAR Deputy Minister of Defence Xavier Yangongo told IRIN.

Composed of about 200 soldiers mostly from Libya, Sudan and Djibouti, the Communaute des Etats sahelo-sahariens (CEN-SAD) force was sent to CAR following the May 2001 coup attempt.

On 2 October, the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) summit set up a 350-man force to replace the CEN-SAD force with a mandate to protect President Ange-Felix Patasse, monitor the border between Chad and CAR, and restructure the army.

"A part [of the CEMAC force] is already here so a part of the CEN-SAD force has to leave," Libyan Minister in charge of African Affairs, Ali Triki told reporters in Bangui on Wednesday. He added that a vacuum should not be created by the departure of the CEN-SAD force.

Libya has already announced its willingness to withdraw its troops gradually from CAR as the CEMAC troops arrive. So far, however, only 110 Gabonese soldiers have arrived.

Analysts say there is strong rivalry between CEMAC and CEN-SAD, to which both Chad and CAR belong, and both of which wish to increase their influence in CAR.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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