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EU Agrees to Send Troops to Central African Republic

FILE - French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius attends a news conference in Paris.
FILE - French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius attends a news conference in Paris.
Responding to strong lobbying from France, the European Union has agreed to send hundreds of troops to help stabilize the conflict-torn Central African Republic. Donors also pledged almost a half-billion dollars in assistance for CAR, where lawmakers have just elected a new interim president.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius saluted the European Union's decision to send troops to Bangui, to support efforts by French and African soldiers to restore stability and security in the CAR.

Fabius said the European troops would probably be deployed toward the end of February and they would number about 500. Other reports suggest up to 1,000 European soldiers may be deployed.

The foreign minister said troops would be stationed around Bangui airport for roughly six months, before handing over to African forces. This will be the EU's first land operation since 2008, when it sent a force to eastern Chad and northeastern CAR.

Fabius, like French President Francois Hollande, also congratulated Bangui's mayor Catherine Samba-Panza, who was elected Monday as the CAR's interim president. Fabius described her as a 'remarkable woman,' and said he was looking forward to meeting her soon.

Besides troops on the ground, EU and other foreign donors meeting in Brussels pledged nearly $500 million in humanitarian assistance for CAR. United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos said the funding would cover operations there for the coming months. But, she said it wasn't enough.

"We need to look beyond today - although today is very important - and take immediate action to restore livelihoods, preserve community support structures and strengthen local economies," she said.

Amos said the root causes of the country's conflict must still be addressed. The country has endured months of sectarian fighting, and has not had a stable government in nearly a year.