Bangui - Central African Republic President Francois Bozize has sacked his son Jean Francis Bozize as defence minister and also sacked the army chief of staff, a decree read over state radio said on Wednesday.
Bozize earlier had criticised the army for failing to halt a rebel advance that had pushed back government soldiers to within 75km of the capital Bangui.
A spokesperson for the Seleka rebels said on Wednesday they had halted their advance to allow for peace talks.
The Seleka rebels had pushed to within striking distance of Bangui after a three-week onslaught and threatened to oust President Francois Bozize, accusing him of reneging on a previous peace deal and cracking down on dissidents.
Their announcement on Wednesday gave the leader only a limited reprieve as the fighters said they might insist on his removal in the negotiations.
"I have asked our forces not to move their positions starting today because we want to enter talks in [Gabon's capital] Libreville for a political solution," said Seleka spokesperson Eric Massi, speaking by telephone from Paris.
"I am in discussion with our partners to come up with proposals to end the crisis, but one solution could be a political transition that excludes Bozize," he said.
The advance by Seleka, an alliance of mostly north-eastern rebel groups, was the latest in a series of revolts in a country at the heart of one of Africa's most turbulent regions - and the most serious since the Chad-backed insurgency that swept Bozize to power in 2003.
Diplomatic sources have said talks organised by central African regional bloc Eccas could start on 10 January. The US, the EU and France have called on both sides to negotiate and spare civilians.
News of the rebel halt eased tension in Bangui, where residents had been stockpiling food and water and staying indoors after dark.
"They say they are no longer going to attack Bangui, and that's great news for us," said Jaqueline Loza in the crumbling riverside city.
Eccas members Chad, Congo Republic, Gabon and Cameroon have sent hundreds of soldiers to reinforce CAR's army after a string of rebel victories since early December.
Gabonese General Jean Felix Akaga, commander of the regional force, said his troops were defending the town of Damara, 75km north of Bangui and close to the rebel front.
"Damara is a red line not to be crossed... Damara is in our control and Bangui is secure," he said. "If the rebellion decides to approach Damara, they know they will encounter a force that will react."
Soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs, rocket propelled grenade launchers and truck-mounted machine guns had taken up positions across the town, which was otherwise nearly-abandoned.
Some of the fighters wore turbans that covered their faces and had charms strung around their necks and arms meant to protect them against enemy bullets.
Chad's President Idriss Deby, one of Bozize's closest allies, had warned the rebels the regional force would confront them if they approached the town.