France Pushes For U.N. Action in Central African Republic
Laurent Fabius

French foreign minister called on Wednesday for the U.N.Security Council to adopt a resolution next month to boost U.N. operations in the Central African Republic, which he said risks to become a new Somalia if it doesn’t get immediate support.

The landlocked, mineral-rich Central African Republic, or CAR, has slipped into chaos since northern Seleka rebels seized the capital, Bangui, and ousted President Francois Bozize in March. U.N. officials and rights groups say both sides may have committed war crimes.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius co-hosted a meeting with the European Union and U.N. humanitarian affairs officials on Wednesday in an effort to raise awareness for a crisis that has struggled to galvanize international interest, shadowed by other conflicts such as the Syrian civil war.

“CAR has become a lawless state and, in a lawless state, the exactions increase and, without any action,this country can become the refuge of all terrorists,” Fabius told reporters, after telling delegates that radical Islamist groups were already operating in the country.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power saidin the meeting on the Central African Republic that the United States was “deeply alarmed” by the prospect of the country becoming a safe haven for violent extremists.

“The devastating events in Kenya in the last few days only underscore how terrorist groups and other extremists take advantage of lawless or ungoverned spaces,” said Power, referring to the deadly attack on a Nairobi’s shopping mall on Saturday claimed by Somali Islamist militants.

She said the situation in the Central African Republic “constitutes a terrible human tragedy and a threat to international peace and security, and that merits the full and immediate prioritization and attention of the international community at the highest levels.”

The country’s former colonial power, France – which intervened earlier this year to oust Islamist rebels from another of its former colonies, such as Mali – has been reluctant to get directly involved in the crisis. It has urged African nations and the African Union to do their utmost to resolve the crisis among themselves.

But while the African Union plans to deploy a 3,600-strong peacekeeping mission – known as MISCA – in the country, incorporating a regional force of 1,100 soldiers already on the ground, it is unlikely to be operational before 2014.

The African Union has asked financial, logistical and technical support from the United Nations, and senior U.N. officials recommended last month that the U.N. Security Council approves this request.

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