A national reconciliation conference has opened in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui.
The conference, which is due to end on March the Fifth, is being attended by representatives of political and social groups, but is being boycotted by several opposition parties.
Correspondents say the aim of the conference is to put an end to the crisis caused by three army mutinies in 1996 and to create a favourable climate for the deployment of an international peacekeeping force.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, called yesterday for this to be set up to replace the inter-African force which has been overseeing a peace accord for the past year and is due to withdraw in the middle of next month.
Mr Annan, warned that if no other force stepped in, the situation would deteriorate rapidly, with serious consequences for the entire region.