France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves le Drian says the conflict-torn Central African Republic must not be allowed to split.
He was speaking on his latest visit to the former French colony.
Rising religious violence there has prompted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to warn that de facto ‘partition’ between Muslims and Christians is a real risk.
Christian militias formed after abuses by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels, who ruled the country for nine months, are waving a revenge cycle of bloodshed.
Ban wants Paris to add to the 1,600 strong force it has already sent to assist African Union peace keepers. The European Union has agreed to send around 500 troops.
The UN chief is concerned that the violence could spiral into a genocide and says the international response to the crisis “does not yet match the gravity of the situation”.
“The international response must be robust with a credible deployment of force… It must be swift if we are to prevent the worst-case scenario,” said Ban, who is due to report to the United Nations Security Council in March on options for transforming the current African Union peacekeeping force into a UN operation.
At least 2,000 people have been killed and, despite the arrival of new interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, danger and hunger are rife.