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Wednesday January 8, 2014 MYT 7:00:04 PM
Wednesday January 8, 2014 MYT 7:01:12 PM
Central African Republic's President Michel Djotodia sits during a conference in Bangui December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Herve Serefio
PARIS (Reuters) - Central African leaders will meet on Thursday to decide the future of Central African Republic's interim President Michel Djotodia whose leadership has failed to restore stability, France's foreign minister said on Wednesday.
French and African troops deployed in the country have struggled to stop tit-for-tat violence between Muslim Seleka rebels, who seized power in March, and Christian self-defence militias. More than 1,000 people died in clashes in December.
The coup by the Seleka unleashed a wave of looting, rapes and massacres by its fighters that degenerated into clashes with the Christian militias.
Seleka leader Djotodia, installed as interim president under a deal with regional African states, has been powerless to halt the bloodshed, which has displaced some 1 million people and stirred fears of a repeat of Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
"A political stabilisation of the country is imperative," Laurent Fabius said in a transcript of an interview with Le Parisien newspaper.
He declined to answer when asked if Djotodia could stay as president, saying: "It is envisaged that the countries of the region will meet on Thursday to take decisions."
The meeting is due to be held in Chad.
The deployment of French troops in early December under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians has gradually restored a semblance of calm to the capital Bangui, though isolated revenge lynchings and machete attacks continue.
Amid frustration in France with Djotodia's government and diplomatic pressure for quick elections, Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye last month brought forward elections to 2014.
"Djotodia and us, it's not a love story," said a French diplomatic source. "The quicker he goes, the better things will be. We are making do with him and holding him back."
French President Francois Hollande in December pointed the finger at Djotodia blaming him for allowing the crisis to unfold.
France deployed a 1,600 strong peacekeeping mission in its former colony to stop the violence, but the U.N.-mandated intervention is struggling to restore security in the country.
Under the terms of a U.N. resolution passed on December 5, France hopes to hand over responsibility for security to the African Union peacekeeping force MISCA in six months.
The AU operation is due to reach 6,000 troops by late January but analysts say its inefficacy may require a U.N. peacekeeping mission to deploy.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday after a New Year's tour of troops in the region that Paris saw "no specific reasons" for now to increase troop numbers in CAR, although that would be reviewed at the start of February.
"We'll assess the situation at the start of February. MISCA should be fully operational within this timeframe," he said.
(Reporting By John Irish; editing by Daniel Flynn and Alister Doyle)
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