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Central African Republic’s new leader to review minerals, petro deals

Michel Djotodia, centre, the rebel leader who declared himself president of the Central African Republic over the weekend after his soldiers seized the capital, arrives for a meeting with members of the government armed forces in the capital Bangui, Thursday, March 28, 2013.


Central African Republic's new president, Michel Djotodia, whose rebel forces took control of the capital Bangui last weekend, said on Friday his government would review mining and oil contracts signed under the previous government.

Asked about petroleum and mining licences awarded to Chinese and South African companies by toppled president Francois Bozize, Mr. Djotodia said, "I will ask the relevant ministers to see whether things were badly done, to try to sort them out."

Mr. Djotodia also said he would request help from former colonial power France and the United States to retrain Central African Republic's ill-disciplined and demoralized army, which was easily overrun by fighters from the Seleka rebel coalition.

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His comments appeared to mark a change of tack from his predecessor Mr. Bozize's close ties to South Africa, with which he had signed a fresh bilateral defence agreement in January.

South Africa had deployed a training mission of some 400 troops in Central African Republic, 13 of whom were killed and 27 injured when they fought rebel forces in the outskirts of Bangui at the weekend.

Although Central African Republic has deposits of gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, these remain largely untapped, and the coup-prone nation is one of the poorest on earth.

"We will rely on the European Union to help us develop this country," Mr. Djotodia said, adding that about 80 per cent of the country's foreign aid has come from the bloc. "When we have been sick, the European Union was at our bedside. It will not abandon us now."

Mr. Bozize, who fled to Cameroon, has requested asylum in the West African nation of Benin, a senior official with Benin's foreign ministry official said this week.

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