Preparations for national talks, due to be held in August, began on Monday with the newly established National Transitional Council of the Central African Republic holding its first session.
Former President Ange-Felix Patasse, who was ousted on 15 March by former army chief of staff Francois Bozize, initiated the national dialogue in November 2002, aimed at ending a rebellion by Bozize.
The coup scuttled plans for the talks but Bozize has since announced the retention of the team Patasse picked to coordinate the dialogue. Patasse had appointed Bishop Paulin Pomodimo as the head of the coordination team and Henri Maidou as his deputy.
Despite retaining the two officials, Bozize has said the form and agenda for the dialogue would change. The changes were discussed during Monday's council meeting.
Speaking during the opening of the meeting in the capital, Bangui, council Speaker Nicolas Tiangaye, said the council would also examine drafts of the new constitution, the electoral code, the electoral calendar, the government’s political programme and the achievements of the government in the light of its commitments during a consultative meeting with the EC on 12 June.
Comprising 98 members, including two former heads of states - Andre Kolingba and David Dacko - as honorary members, the council has delegates from all the country’s political, social, religious and professional affiliations.
Explaining the role of the council in the transitional government, Tiangaye said, "The council never demanded to share the emblematic prerogatives of the legislative function of the head of state."
He added that the immunity accorded to the council members did not mean that the council could control the actions of the government.
After Bozize overthrew Patasse, he dissolved the national assembly, the government and the constitution. Subsequently, he scheduled a referendum on the constitutional for mid-2004, legislative elections and municipal elections for the third quarter of 2004 and presidential elections in the last quarter.