UPDATE 1-France's Hollande says difficult for CAR head to stay in place

Sat Dec 7, 2013 4:14pm EST

PARIS Dec 7 (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday it would be difficult for the current head of Central African Republic to stay in place because he let the crisis there unfold.

France is deploying 1,600 troops to its former colony, where at least 400 people have died in three days of violence between the Seleka rebel group that seized power in March and Christian self-defence militias, which has spilled over into religious violence in the capital and beyond.

"I don't want to point fingers but we cannot keep in place a president who was not able to do anything, or even worse, who let things happen," Hollande said in an interview broadcast on the France 24 TV channel.

He said elections should be held before 2015 when the mandate of the interim president, Michel Djotodia, ends. "The idea is to head as fast as possible towards elections," he said.

Of the French intervention, Hollande said: "Tonight there will be 1,600 troops and there will not be more. It will be enough."

He said the operation would be financed by European funds, worth 50 million euros ($68.42 million), as well as by the United Nations, which backed the operation on Thursday.

It comes just months after France deployed 4,000 troops to oust al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups which had seized control of northern Mali, at a cost of 400 to 500 million euros.

Hollande said he would raise the issue of financing for military operations at the next European Council meeting, due to take place on Dec. 19-20. "I will tell them that we need to build a fund that would allow financing of those operations," he said. "I would like them (EU nations) to be in a position to contribute more, help more," he added.

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