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Associated Press
Head of the Central African Republic's government delegation to the peace talks, Jean Willybiro Sako, speaks to the media Monday.

BANGUI, Central African Republic — Talks between Central African Republic's government and the rebels who now control much of the country's north are set to get under way no later than Friday, the president of Republic of Congo has announced.

Delegations were expected to travel to Gabon on Monday, though a plane carrying the government officials along with members of the country's political opposition failed to leave Bangui, the capital, as scheduled.

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President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Republic of Congo met Monday with the embattled leader of Central African Republic, Francois Bozize, and declined to comment on reports the rebels are still seeking his ouster as a condition of the talks.

"In our capacity as mediator, we can't interpret the declarations of others," he said. "The fact that we hold to is that all the parties have agreed that we are going to negotiations."

The rebel delegation, meanwhile, arrived Monday in Gabon as a spokesman in Paris claimed the fighters could still take the government-fortified city of Damara or Bangui but were holding back out of concern for the 700,000 people who live there.