US urges Central Africa to pick leaders with 'integrity'

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Wednesday called for the Central African Republic to hold a transparent vote to choose a new interim president, who could usher in a new period of stability.

The country's lawmakers were struggling on Wednesday to agree on rules for the Saturday vote to replace Mr Michel Djotodia, who resigned under international pressure last week, amid fears the poll may be delayed.

Mr Djotodia quit last week after failing to rein in his ex-Seleka rebels leading to sectarian bloodshed, with his fighters embarking on a spree of looting and rape, which in turn sparked revenge attacks from Christian militias.

"The United States is closely following the ongoing deliberations of the Central African Republic's Transitional National Council as it works to select a new president and prime minister," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

"We urge that the selection process be transparent, include a full range of political, religious, and civil society representatives."

The council should also abide by agreements under which the new prime minister should come from the democratic opposition, she added in a statement.

"The council has an historic opportunity to put the country on a path toward stability, democracy, and development, and we encourage the council to seize this opportunity by selecting leaders of integrity who can restore stability to the Central African Republic," Ms Harf said.

The new leadership should also prepare for "credible elections" to be held no later than February 2015 and seek to "earn the confidence of the international community".