U.N. To EU Troops: Use Force In Central African Republic If Need Be

Central African Republic

(CNN)

By Greg Botelho

(CNN) — The U.N. Security Council voted Tuesday to not only continue its peacekeepers’ mission in the tumultuous Central African Republic but to authorize the use of force by European Union troops there, the world body said.

The decision came just over a week after the nation tapped Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of the capital of Bangui, as its interim president.

She replaced Michel Djotodia, the leader of the Seleka rebels who seized power in March only to step down earlier this month after failing to halt the escalating violence in the country.

Those dangers remain high, the U.N. said in a news release Tuesday explaining the Security Council’s vote.

Specifically, the United Nations pointed to the “increasing cycle of violence and retaliation” and the “continuing deterioration of the security situation” in the Central African Republic.

The U.N. peacekeeping mandate in that country now extends through January 31, 2015. The new vote also includes banning travel and freezing assets of some involved in the conflict, on top of an existing arms embargo.

The resolution was adopted unanimously by the 15-member Security Council.

The latest vote also urges Samba-Panza’s government “to speed up” — with the United Nations’ support — progress toward ‘free and fair’ elections” to be held no later than February 2015.

The Central African Republic, a former French colony, plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of rebels dubbed Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize, in the latest in a series of coups since the country gained independence in 1960.

Rebels infiltrated the capital in March, sending Bozize fleeing to Cameroon. Djotodia, one of the Seleka leaders, became the nation’s interim leader.

Since then, political turmoil and violence have spiraled.

Seleka is a predominantly Muslim coalition, and to counter the attacks on Christian communities, vigilante Christian groups have fought back. The United Nations — estimating more than half the country’s population is affected by the worsening humanitarian crisis — has said it fears a genocide is brewing, and aid agencies warn of a humanitarian crisis.

France has taken the lead among European nations by sending 1,600 of its troops to the country. They join about 4,000 African troops.

CNN’s Samira Said and Anna-Maja Rappard contributed to this report.

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