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France likely to extend CAR mission

Around 1,600 French troops were sent to the volatile African country in December.

FILE:France deployed 1,600 troops in December to try to stem violence between Christian militias and rebels. Picture: AFP.

PARIS - French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday the United Nations would probably have to renew a French mandate for French troops to restore order in Central African Republic when it expires in May.

France deployed 1,600 troops there in December to try to stem violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels who ousted President Francois Bozize last March.

Catherine Samba-Panza, the interim president, says she hopes to restore order within a month, though Human Rights Watch has warned Seleka fighters who fled the capital Bangui have regrouped in the northeast and begun attacks on civilians.

Government soldiers lynched a man in the capital on Wednesday whom they suspected of having been a rebel, underscoring security concerns in a country that plans to hold elections in February next year.

Asked during an RTL radio interview whether France's six-month UN mandate, granted on 5 December, would have to be renewed, Le Drian said: "Probably".

The defence minister said that the French mission helped ease tensions and that the situation was improving day by day.

"The situation in Bangui has more or less stabilised," Le Drian said. "In the rest of the country it is much more complicated".

The European Union agreed last month to send around 500 troops to Central African Republic to support the French-African mission there.

French troops intervened alone for the second time last year after ousting Islamist rebels in Mali, another former African colony.