France wants Central Africa elections in second half of 2014

People displaying signs that say "We want the resignation of the leader of jihadists Michel Djotodia" (centre) and "Homage to France for the two soldiers killed for our cause" in a refugee camp near the airport in Bangui, Central Africa Republic, aft
People displaying signs that say "We want the resignation of the leader of jihadists Michel Djotodia" (centre) and "Homage to France for the two soldiers killed for our cause" in a refugee camp near the airport in Bangui, Central Africa Republic, after fleeing violence on Dec 10, 2013. France wants elections in the Central African Republic to be held "as quickly as possible", preferably by late 2014, its envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - France wants elections in the Central African Republic to be held "as quickly as possible", preferably by late 2014, its envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday, Dec 10, 2013.

"If the elections could take place in the second half of 2014, in the fall of 2014, that could be positive," Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters.

Speaking at UN headquarters in New York, Mr Araud referenced an early 2015 deadline to hold legislative and presidential elections in the troubled nation.

But, he added, "in light of political tensions on the ground, it would be preferable to have elections as quickly as possible, that is to say in the second half of 2014". French President Francois Hollande arrived in the Central African Republic's capital of Bangui late Tuesday amid ongoing efforts to disarm rogue rebels.

France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to the notoriously unstable majority-Christian country, which was plunged into chaos when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in a March coup, overthrowing leader Francois Bozize.

The troops are part of a UN-mandated effort to restore order.

What started as rebel looting of villages and towns has degenerated into attacks between Muslim and Christian militias with some UN officials warning of a possible genocide.

Mr Hollande was due to meet interim president Michel Djotodia, a former Seleka rebel leader.

Although Mr Djotodia disbanded the Seleka, some militiamen went rogue and warlords soon imposed a reign of terror on large swaths of land.

Mr Hollande criticised Mr Djotodia over the weekend, saying he "let things happen" after a wave of sectarian violence left nearly 400 dead.