A Chadian soldier wearing reflective sunglasses observes the convoy ahead of him, as Chadian soldiers who are fighting in support of President Francois Bozize, ride on the road leading to Damara, about 70km north of the capital Bangui.

Bangui - Rebels in Central African Republic said on Wednesday they had halted their advance on the capital and were ready to start peace talks, averting a clash with regionally backed troops in the mineral-rich nation.

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

Their announcement gave Bozizé only a limited reprieve, as the fighters said they might still insist on his removal during negotiations.

“I have asked our forces not to move their positions starting on Thursday because we want to enter talks in [Gabon's capital] Libreville for a political solution,” Seleka spokesman Eric Massi said, speaking by telephone from Paris.

“One solution could be a political transition that excludes Bozizé.” - The Independent