By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday appealed to the international community to send an additional 3,000 troops and police to Central African Republic to combat worsening sectarian violence until a likely U.N. peacekeeping force is established.
He told the U.N. Security Council he would shortly report to the 15-member body with a recommendation for a U.N. peacekeeping force with a robust mandate to protect civilians and promote stability in the landlocked former French colony.
Ban, who has said he is gravely concerned the violence could spiral into genocide, warned that a "de facto partition" of the country was setting in. At least 2,000 people have been killed and some 700,000 have been displaced since December.
"The deployment of a peacekeeping operation, if authorized, will take months. The people of the Central African Republic do not have months to wait," he said. "The international community must act decisively now."
Ban proposed that an international force of African, French and European troops be increased by a third within weeks to 12,000 soldiers and police. The force would bridge a gap of up to six months until a U.N. peacekeeping force - if approved by the Security Council - could be established in the country.
"The security requirements far exceed the capabilities of the number of international troops now deployed," Ban said. "I call for the rapid reinforcement ... with additional deployments of at least 3,000 more troops and police."
The bridging force should focus on containing the violence, protecting civilians, preventing more displacements, creating a secure environment for aid delivery, and laying the groundwork for the handover to a U.N. force as soon as possible, he said.
U.N. aid chief Valerie Amos said on Thursday she had been shocked by what she had seen during a three-day visit to the poor nation at the heart of Africa. "There are not enough troops on the ground," Amos told a news conference in Bangui, after returning from a trip to the north of the country.
'STOP THE KILLING'
French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud said French and African forces had started to stabilize the situation.
"The priority today: what we are going to do in the coming months to try to alleviate the suffering of the Central African people?" he said. "The secretary-general made some proposals. The Security Council is going to have a look at them."
The European Union is already deploying 1,000 soldiers to join 6,000 African and 2,000 French troops, who have struggled to stop the fighting sparked when the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power a year ago in the majority Christian state.
"I am grateful for these commitments. But more are needed, quickly, and the wider international community must share the burden," said Ban, who also proposed that the international troops all be brought under a coordinated command.
Ban also proposed that the African Union force be provided with logistical and financial support, including rations, water and fuel, estimating that such a "bare essentials" package would cost $38 million for six months.
African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui welcomed the call for financial support for African troops.
Ban said urgent financial support was also needed to help the Central African Republic government "get police back on the streets, judges back in the courtrooms, and prison guards back on the job." He said Denmark and Norway had already pledged money for this aspect of his initiative.
"We have the power to stop the killing and save the Central African Republic from its current nightmare," Ban said.
(Additional reporting by Dan Flynn; Editing by James Dalgleish, G Crosse and Mohammad Zargham)