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African Union Ban Ki-moon Catherine Samba-Panza Central African Republic Christian France

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France to send no more troops to CAR as 'catastrophe' looms

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French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian with CAR Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza in Mbaiki AFP/Fred Dufour

The Central African Republic (CAR) is facing "a humanitarian catastrophe of unspeakable proportions", a top UN official has said after visiting the country. As French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian paid a third visit to the violence-racked nation, France indicated that it would not send more troops to work with African peacekeepers.


"Massive ethno-religious cleansing is continuing. Shocking barbarity, brutality and inhumanity have characterised this violence," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement Wednesday.

And he said the new government cannot effectively protecting its citizens.

Earlier Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza declared war on Christian anti-balaka militias, accused by Amnesty International of ethnic cleansing.

"They think that because I'm a woman, I'm weak. But now the anti-balaka who want to kill, will themselves be hunted," she told a crowd in Mbaiki, south of the capital, Bangui.

But Samba Panza rejected the ethnic cleansing claim.

Le Drian, who was with her, spoke out against the possible partition of the country between the mainly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south.

"For France there is and there will be only one single Central Africa and one single head of state," he declared.

CAR Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga condemned the attacks on Muslim civilians on Thursday.

"You cannot say you are Christian and kill, burn, destroy your brother," he told Vatican Radio.

On Tuesday in Brazzaville Le Drian endorsed the use of force to stop the violence, recalling that the UN mandate to French troops and the African Misca force allows such action.

But France gave a cool response to UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon's call for France to consider sending more troops to the CAR.

The foreign affairs ministry said that it was up to a planned European force and the UN itself to provide reinforcements to the 5,400 Misca personnel and the 1,600 French.

A 500-strong European force has been agreed in principle and, although the UK and Germany have said they will not participate, non-EU countries, such as Georgia and Estonia are expected to contribute.

France is also pushing for a UN force to be deployed in the middle of the year, although the US is reported to be reluctant to take part for budgetary reasons.