Pope John Paul II on Wednesday called on government troops and rebel forces in the Central African Republic to lay down their arms and seek a peaceful solution to their conflict.
"Alarming news about clashes is coming from the Central African Republic and especially about painful events in the capital Bangui," the pontiff told 15,000 faithful rallying in Saint Peter's square for a weekly audience.
The pope asked Christians to pray so that peace and reconciliation may enter people's heart.
"I ask all rival groups to lay down their arms and work together to restore unity in the country," he added.
President Ange-Felix Patasse has accused his predecessor, Andre Kolingba, of mounting a bloody attempt to overthrow him on May 28 and has put a price on his head.
The government charged that those behind the coup had "recruited Rwandan genocidal mercenaries sought by international justice", in an apparent reference to members of the former Rwandan Armed Forces held responsible for that country's genocide in 1994 -- VATICAN CITY (AFP)
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