The UN Security Council has authorized the deployment of EU troops to the Central African Republic to assist French and African Union units who are trying to stem sectarian violence.
The European Union's decision last week to send up to 600 EU troops to the Central African Republic (CAR) was endorsed unanimously Tuesday by the UN Security Council.
The council also threatened sanctions against instigators of violence in the impoverished African nation, where clashes along Muslim-Christian lines have displaced one million people since December 2012.
The 15-member UN council mandated the EU operation to "take all necessary measures with the limits of its capacities," including force to protect civilians.
Ambassador Gerard Araud of France, which together with Luxembourg submitted the UN resolution, said the EU troops would relieve French units. They are already protecting some 100,000 people who took refuge at the airport in the capital Bangui.
Speaking at the UN in New York, Araud said the EU's arrival would enable the 1,600 French troops sent last month to deploy to other areas of Bangui and "beyond."
EU planning to begin immediately
EU diplomatic sources in Brussels quoted by the news agency AFP said French Lieutenant General Philippe Ponties would begin immediately the planning of the new, six-month-long EU mission.
It would bear the acronym EUFOR RCA, with troops provided by Belgium, Estonia, Poland and Spain. Germany could provide aerial logistics, they said.
UN force due later
UN chief Ban Ki-Moon is to report to the Security Council next month on options for the likely creation of a UN force within six months.
Araud said the proposed UN force would draw on the backing of the African Union, which already has some 5,000 peacekeepers deployed.
He said an intended AU ceiling of 6,000 was already considered "too low because frankly the situation is very, very dire and the country is huge."
The degree of resentment between communities was "incredible," he added.
Election due early 2015
Last week, a traditional assembly elected Catherine Samba-Panza as interim CAR president. She has pledged to open talks with armed groups and take the country to elections early next year.
Since late 2012, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels rose up and then overthrew then-president Francois Bozize, thousands have been killed. Former interim president Michel Djotodia ceded power on January 10 under pressure from African region leaders.
The Central African Republic, whose population is majority Christian, is rich in mineable gold, diamonds and uranium. Sixty percent of its 4.6 million population cannot read or write. Many are in need of humanitarian aid.
ipj/ph (Reuters, AFP, dpa)