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Central African Republic peace force not to fully deploy before 2014

Source: Reuters - Tue, 17 Sep 2013 14:20 GMT
Author: Reuters
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French soldiers stand guard in an armored vehicle outside M'poko international airport in Bangui March 28, 2013 REUTERS/Alain Amontchi
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* African nations to deploy 3,600-strong force

* Rebels seized capital in March

* Country has descended into chaos

LIBREVILLE, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Reinforcements have begun arriving for an African peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic but the planned 3,600-strong force will not be fully deployed before 2014, an official involved in talks on the crisis said.

The land-locked, mineral-rich nation has slipped into chaos since northern rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in March. U.N. officials and rights groups say both sides may have committed war crimes in the violence.

Former colonial power France has called on world powers to take action to prevent the country following Somalia's path to decades of lawlessness and efforts are focusing on beefing up a 1,100-strong African force that has long been deployed.

"The force will reach 2,000 soldiers (in September) and hit 3,600 by January 2014," an official who took part in regional meetings hosted by Gabon told Reuters on Tuesday.

Further meetings are due to take place in Gabon later this week to decide on the leadership and make up of the force.

Moussa Fati Mahamat, Chad's foreign minister, said the force, to be known as MISCA, will have an African Union mandate to carry out more robust operations than the existing mission operated under Central Africa's CEEAC regional bloc.

Michel Djotodia, who swept to power at the head of the rebellion, was officially sworn in as the country's president last month but he has failed to contain waves of looting and killing by gunmen.

Djotodia last week sacked the head of the armed forces after days of clashes with fighters loyal to Bozize killed 100 people.

CAR is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium but decades of instability and the spillover from conflicts in its larger neighbours have left the nation's 4.5 million people mired in cycles of crises.

(Reporting by Jean-Rovys Dabany; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Joe Bavier and Janet Lawrence)

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