UN official: Loosen arms embargo on Central African Republic

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 7:12 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Central African Republic has written to a U.N. sanctions committee to ask that an arms embargo on the violence-ripped country be loosened to help its armed forces restore calm.

A peacekeeping mission statement Wednesday said Parfait Onaga-Anyanga told reporters he wrote the sanctions committee after noting the government's earlier request to lift the arms embargo. The statement does not say when exactly he sent the letter with the request to ease the embargo, which is rare for someone in his position to make.

On Tuesday, fighters fired shots during a visit by Onaga-Anyanga to a neighborhood in the capital, Bangui, with no casualties reported, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Wednesday.

The president and other officials with Central African Republic's transitional government have said the arms embargo, imposed by the U.N. Security Council in January, must be lifted to allow the government to import weapons to help keep order. The embargo lasts through the end of January 2016.

Onaga-Anyanga called the re-arming of the armed forces a "crucial question," Wednesday's statement said.

Deadly violence between Christians and Muslims continues as the impoverished, landlocked country prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 13. Fresh fighting in recent weeks forced the elections to be delayed from their original Oct. 18 date.

Central African Republic has been highly volatile since early 2013, when Muslim rebels overthrew the president of a decade. Unprecedented sectarian violence followed. The arrival of a U.N. peacekeeping mission a little over a year ago brought some stability that has now been shattered.

Two U.N. peacekeepers were injured Wednesday when suspected fighters attacked a commercial convoy the peacekeeping mission was escorting, with one peacekeeper reported to be in critical condition, Dujarric said.

The U.N. mission warned Wednesday that attacks on peacekeepers may constitute a war crime.