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France says EU shirking duty to Central African Republic

Angry young men complain to French soldiers on patrol in the pro-Christian area of Bangui February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
Angry young men complain to French soldiers on patrol in the pro-Christian area of Bangui February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Friday the European Union was shirking its responsibilities for international security after an EU plan to send up to 1,000 troops to Central African Republic next week seemed to be about to collapse.

The EU had proposed sending 800 to 1,000 soldiers to the former French colony to join 6,000 African and 2,000 French troops, who have struggled to stop fighting that started a year ago when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian state.

However, EU sources said on Thursday the plan was in jeopardy because European governments had not provided the soldiers and equipment they promised.

In a blunt joint statement from France's foreign and defense ministers, Paris "strongly" urged its partners to do more.

"The EU must not shirk its responsibilities with regard to international security," Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian, the respective ministers, said. "It has to be said ... despite contributions announced by some European states, the total falls short."

Referring to an EU promise announced on February 10, the ministers said: "If additional contributions do not materialize rapidly, it will not be possible to launch this vital operation next week as planned."

Failure to launch the mission would be an embarrassment for the EU, which has been trying to burnish its credentials as a security organization, and a setback for France, which has called for more solidarity for its efforts in the Central Africa Republic.

France has already been forced to send 400 more troops to help combat the crisis with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon pleading for more swift, robust international help to stop sectarian violence that could turn into genocide.

The Security Council last week discussed a proposal for a nearly 12,000-strong peacekeeping force with a resolution expected to be drawn up by France later this month.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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