U.N. council OKs U.N. peacekeepers for Central African Republic

UNITED NATIONS Thu Apr 10, 2014 10:44am EDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved on Thursday the creation of a U.N. peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic to try to stop violence between Christians and Muslims that has threatened to spiral into genocide.

The 15-member council authorized a U.N. force, to be known as MINUSCA, of up to 10,000 troops, 1,800 police and 20 corrections officers. It also authorizes French troops in the landlocked former French colony to support U.N. peacekeepers.

The U.N. operation will assume authority on September 15 from the African Union's 5,600-strong MISCA force, which was deployed in December. The council wants the U.N. force to include "as many MISCA military and police personnel as possible."

The mainly Muslim Seleka seized power a year ago, perpetrating abuses on the majority Christian population that triggered waves of revenge attacks, leading to thousands of deaths and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.

Killings have continued between Christians and the increasingly isolated Muslim communities in the impoverished nation of 4.6 million people despite the presence of 2,000 French troops and the African Union forces.

Top U.N. officials have warned that the violence in the large, sparsely populated country is in danger of spiraling into genocide.

During a brief visit to Bangui on Saturday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said French and African soldiers serving in the Central African Republic are "overwhelmed" by the "state of anarchy" in the country.

The council resolution urges the Central African Republic transitional authorities "to accelerate the preparations in order to hold free, fair, transparent and inclusive presidential and legislative elections no later than February 2015."

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish and Phil Berlowitz)