C. African rebel spokesman: we could take capital

By SARAH DiLORENZO
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Several hundred protesting merchants, one holding a placard using the french acronym of the country's name, hold a demonstration calling for peace as negotiators prepare for talks with rebels from the north, in downtown Bangui, Central African Republic Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. The U.N. Security Council urged rebels in the Central African Republic on Friday to halt their military offensive, withdraw from cities they have seized, and take part in negotiations to find a political solution to the impoverished country's longstanding problems. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

PARIS (AP) — A spokesman for Central African Republic rebels says the fighters could take the capital but are holding their fire out of concern for civilians.

Eric Massi told The Associated Press Monday in Paris that the rebels have several thousand armed fighters and the power to overrun the heavily fortified town of Damara. International forces protecting President Francois Bozize's government have vowed to stop the rebel advance at Damara — 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the capital, Bangui.

But Massi said the rebels would halt their advance.

Massi says he is the rebels' only legitimate spokesman, but the rebel alliance is made up of four groups and others also claim to speak for it.

Rebel and government delegations are set to hold talks this week after a month of fighting.