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Central African Republic suspended from African Union, says official

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The African Union has suspended the Central African Republic after rebels seized power in the country and has imposed travel bans and asset freezes on insurgent leaders, a senior AU official said on Monday.

The power grab by the Seleka rebel coalition, the latest in a series of coups and rebellions since the mineral-rich nation won independence from France in 1960, has already been condemned by the African Union and United Nations.

"The (Peace and Security) Council has decided to suspend with immediate effect the Central African Republic from all the African Union's activities," the AU's Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra, told reporters in Addis Ababa, where the African organization is based.

The United States, France and regional powerbroker Chad have called on Seleka leader Michel Djotodia to respect a January power-sharing deal signed in the Gabonese capital Libreville. A rebel leader has pledged to name a power-sharing government.

The Libreville agreement had created a government drawn from rebel leaders, the civilian opposition and loyalists of former president Francois Bozize. It was led by Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, a former lawyer and member of the civilian opposition.

Seleka, a loose coalition of five rebel groups whose name means 'alliance' in the Songo language, had accused Bozize of breaking the January agreement by failing to integrate their fighters into the army.

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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