UN to threaten sanctions over Central Africa chaos

UNITED NATIONS, United States- The UN Security Council will threaten sanctions Tuesday against the ringleaders of deadly turmoil in the Central African Republic and give a mandate to EU troops bolstering international forces there.

The French-drafted resolution, expected to be adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council, also steps up pressure on interim President Catherine Samba Panza to restore order.

A rebel alliance overthrew the government in March last year but the chaos that followed has seen the country descend into a spiral of banditry and clashes between rival Christian and Muslim militias in which thousands have died.

The resolution, obtained by AFP, threatens sanctions against individuals and groups that "undermine the peace, stability or security" of the Central African Republic.

Sponsored by France, which already has troops backing an African force in the impoverished nation, the resolution pointedly says this includes acts which "threaten or violate transitional agreements, or that threaten or impede the political transition process, including a transition toward free and fair democratic elections, or that fuel violence."

While it does not name names, the threat could open the way for action by a Security Council sanctions committee against several rebel leaders.

The resolution will also gave a UN mandate to about 500 soldiers the European Union plans to send to the Central African Republic.

It gives the EU contingent the right to use "all necessary measures" - force - to protect civilians that the 1,600 French troops and some 3,500 African troops already have.

Belgium, Estonia, Poland and Spain are being spoken of as possible contributors to the European force.

The African Union's stabilization force, known as MISCA, is expected to be turned into a UN peacekeeping force this year.

But diplomats say African nations want to give MISCA a chance to prove its worth first amid an intense discussion over the mandate of a UN force in a country where there is not yet a peace to keep while political efforts to rebuild it are stumbling.

The council resolution says that national elections must be held as soon as possible and by February 2015 at the latest.

It also calls on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to "urgently" step up assistance to the UN political mission in the Central African Republic.

The mission, known as BINUCA, will help the government to organise elections but under its new extended mandate will also help it provide basic services.

UN staff will also assist an international committee of inquiry looking into massacres and human rights abuses by the rival militia.