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Rebels in Central African Republic say they have halted advance, agreed to peace talks

Sia Kambou / AFP - Getty Images

People leave Damara, the last strategic town between the rebels from the Seleka coalition and the Central African Republic's capital, Bangui, on Jan. 2, 2013, as the commander of the regional African force FOMAC warned rebels against trying to take the town, saying it would "amount to a declaration of war."

Ben Curtis / AP

Chadian soldiers who are fighting in support of Central African Republic President Francois Bozize ride in a convoy on the road leading to Damara, about 44 miles north of Bangui, on Jan. 2, 2013.

Rebels in the Central African Republic said they had halted their advance on the capital on Wednesday and agreed to start peace talks, Reuters reports.

The Seleka rebels had pushed to within striking distance of Bangui after a three-week onslaught and threatened to oust President Francois Bozize, accusing him of reneging on a previous peace deal and cracking down on dissidents.

More than 30 truckloads of troops from neighboring Chad lined a two-lane highway outside the nearby town of Damara on Wednesday, The Associated Press reports, supporting government forces who aimed to block the rebel advance. Gen. Jean Felix Akaga, who heads a 10-nation regional force, said the town is a "red line that the rebels cannot cross" or his forces will attack. 

The U.S. Embassy in Bangui was evacuated on Dec. 28 as a result of the uncertain security situation in the country.

Ben Curtis / AP

Chadian soldiers on the road leading to Damara on Jan. 2, 2013.

Ben Curtis / AP

A Chadian soldier sits on a truck near Damara on Jan. 2, 2013.

Ben Curtis / AP

A soldier runs to jump on a moving truck carrying Chadian soldiers in Damara on Jan. 2, 2013.

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