* Sectarian killings spreading across the country
* Access for humanitarian workers hindered by security
* Deployment of AU peacekeepers slow, U.N. force not agreed
By Joe Bavier
ABIDJAN, Nov 28 Central African Republic needs
up to four times more peacekeepers than are currently deployed
to quell the worsening sectarian conflict and provide security
for aid workers, the European Union's top humanitarian official
The country has descended into chaos since the Seleka
coalition of rebels, many of them from neighbouring Chad and
Sudan, ousted President Francois Bozize in March.
France is preparing to boost its force in its anarchic
former colony to at least 1,000 soldiers once a U.N. resolution
is passed next week to improve security until a 3,600-strong
African Union force is operational.
Paris already has around 400 troops based at the airport in
the capital Bangui. Around 2,500 regional peacekeepers deployed
in the country are to be brought into the AU force.
"Clearly what needs to be done is beefing up of peacekeeping
forces. Tripling or quadrupling what is there," EU aid chief
Kristalina Georgieva said, warning they face a twin risk of a
Somalia-like state collapse and potential genocide.
"Unless there is an immediate, significant change in
security conditions, these two risks can deepen so much that we
have a tragedy on our hands. And we'll look back and say 'why
didn't we act sooner'," she said.
Some 460,000 people, a 10th of the population, have fled the
sectarian violence since the takeover by the mainly Muslim
Seleka rebels, whose numbers Georgieva said have grown from
around 5,000 fighters to some 20,000 today.
Fearing that tit-for-tat killings could escalate into
full-blown war between the Christian majority and Muslims, who
represent around 15 percent of the population, world powers are
scrambling into action.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this month ordered his
officials to start preparing for the likely deployment of a U.N.
peacekeeping mission. But African leaders want to give the AU
force time to try to stabilise the situation.
"There has to be a commitment now - not in one month, not in
three months, now - to strengthen security," Georgieva told
Reuters late on Wednesday during a visit to Ivory Coast.
She said rapidly deteriorating security was already
hampering humanitarian assistance to the country of 4.6 million
people and aid agencies worried that their workers could soon
become targets of militia fighters.
Two local employees of the French humanitarian organisation
ACTED were robbed and murdered in the country in September.
"Conditions have become so dangerous in terms of what is
going to happen tomorrow, that they are looking at their
contingency plans," Georgieva said. "If they withdraw into
Bangui, to me this is a signal that we have waited too long."
(Editing by Bate Felix and Alison Williams)