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UN: Central African Republic needs UN force

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson urged the Security Council and the international community on Monday to take decisive action to support the African Union-led peace operation in the Central African Republic, until a U.N. peacekeeping can take over to stem the escalating chaos in one of the world's poorest countries.

He warned of mass atrocities and even civil war if nothing is done. With a long history of chaos and coups, Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a coalition of rebel groups joined forces to overthrow the president in March.

Since seizing power, the rebels have plunged the country into a state of near-anarchy. They have been accused by human rights groups of committing scores of atrocities, including killings, rapes and conscription of child soldiers.

Eliasson said virtually the entire population — 4.6 million people — is "enduring suffering beyond imagination," and a third of the people are "in dire need of food, protection, health care, water, sanitation and shelter."

Last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon presented the council a number of options for supporting the AU-led operation financially and logistically as well as the option of transforming it into a U.N. peacekeeping operation. Ban said he backed a U.N. force with nearly 11,000 U.N. soldiers and police if the crisis degenerates.

In his briefing to the council, Eliasson said that the situation in the Central African Republic was deteriorating so rapidly — with the country becoming "a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups" and never-before-seen sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians — that a U.N. peacekeeping force may soon be the only option.

France, which has been asked by CAR to increase its small force in the country, said it would circulate a draft Security Council resolution to respond to the secretary-general's report late Monday. France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said it will call for additonal support for the 3,000-strong AU-led force, which will increase to about 3,600, and for support for the political transition to elections by February 2015. He said it also will ask the secretary-general for a report in three months on possibly transforming the AU force into a U.N. peacekeeping force.

Mesmin Dembassa Worogagoi, the Central African Republic's charge d'affaires, said "people aspire to one thing alone — peace and security," and U.N. support is essential to achieve this. The transition leading to elections "has been threatened by the great instability prevailing throughout our country," he said.

But Ahmad Allam-mi, secretary general of the Economic Community of Central African States, said elections won't be enough. "We must address the root causes of the conflict," he said, most importantly by establishing a legitimate and representative democracy which serves all people rather than the interests of a clan, ethnic group or religion.

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