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UN approves major peacekeeping force for Central African Republic

The UN Security Council has unanimously voted to send almost 12,000 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic, part of a bid to halt months of violence among Muslim and Christian communities.

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UN to send peacekeeping mission to CAR

The UN will send 10,000 military personnel and 1,800 police to the Central African Republic - with the new force replacing a contingent of more than 5,000 African Union troops. However, the handover will not take place until September 15. Most of the UN troops deployed will hail from African countries, the mission will be known as MINUSCA.

The motion, universally approved by the Security Council members in a vote on Thursday, was put forward by France. The roughly 2,000 French troops already deployed by the CAR's former colonial power would remain in the country and were authorized to use "all necessary means" to support the new UN force.

Sectarian violence in the CAR began last March when mainly Muslim rebels seized power in a coup, then started perpetrating abuses on the majority Christian population. Christian groups subsequently set up what they called "self-defense" groups that began attacking Muslims. The rebel government resigned in January, but this prompted the "anti-Balaka" milita to step up their campaign. Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, in a country of less than 5 million people, in the violence.

The Security Council resolution passed on Thursday "demands that all militias and armed groups put aside their arms, cease all forms of violence and destabilizing activities immediately and release children from their ranks."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the capital Bangui on Saturday, saying that the French and African soldiers already present were "overwhelmed" by the "state of anarchy" in the country.

The resolution also urges the transitional authorities in Bangui "to accelerate the preparations in order to hold free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential and legislative elections no later than February 2015."

The German government on Tuesday authorized the deployment of around 80 Bundeswehr soldiers to serve as part of a separate EU force currently present in Bangui in a six-month "bridging mission" that will expire shortly after MINUSCA's takeover of peacekeeping duties. Parliamentarians in the Bundestag overwhelmingly approved the deployment - 514 in favor, 59 against, three abstentions - in a vote on Thursday afternoon.

msh/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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