UPDATE 1-France deploys soldiers to protect embassy in CAR

Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:32pm EST

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PARIS Dec 26 (Reuters) - France has deployed soldiers stationed in the Central African Republic to secure its embassy in the capital Bangui, after protesters threw stones at the embassy and some managed to enter the compound, the defence ministry said on Wednesday.

President Francois Hollande ordered the ministry to take all measures to ensure the security of the embassy and French nationals in the country, his office said in a separate statement.

"These measures were quickly implemented and will be extended as long as necessary," Hollande's office added.

France has 250 soldiers in the country, based at Bangui's airport, for an existing peacekeeping mission, the defence ministry said.

Hundreds of people protested outside the embassy earlier on Wednesday in anger at a rebel advance through the north of the country and a government minister called for French soldiers stationed there to intervene to stop the rebels.

A Reuters at the scene said some protesters had accused France of backing the rebels while others had demanded French forces in the country help the army fight off the rebel push.

The French defence ministry said its soldiers were able to secure the embassy compound and restore order after arriving to reinforce French gendarmes already protecting the embassy.

French military officers act as advisors to the CAR's army and Paris in the past has helped prop up or oust governments. However, France, which has had a formal defence pact with the country since 1960, is increasingly reluctant to directly intervene in conflicts in its former colonies.

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