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C.Africa leader vows to fight spread of weapons

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Central African Republic's interim leader Michel Djotodia speaks in Bangui on March 30, 2013. Djotodia promised to fight against the spread of weapons in the country, still suffering the aftermath of a coup earlier this year.AFP/File

Central African Republic's interim leader Michel Djotodia promised Tuesday to fight against the spread of weapons in the country, still suffering the aftermath of a coup earlier this year.

In an address to the nation on the 53rd anniversary of independence from France, Djotodia said the government had "taken measures to restore security".

"We must fight against the proliferation and circulation of weapons," he said, adding that controls on gun ownership would be put in place.

"Our defence and security forces must only use weapons to protect people and their property across our territory."

Central African Republic was plunged into chaos when the Seleka rebel coalition toppled former president Francois Bozize on March 24 in the latest coup to hit the unstable nation.

Rebel leader Djotodia proclaimed himself president and was later accepted as interim leader of a transitional government for 18 months until elections.

But he has struggled to restore order in the impoverished nation and control rogue rebels who have gone on looting sprees and attacked the population.

The alleged abuses by both Seleka and other armed groups include torture, rape and recruitment of child soldiers, according to a report due to be discussed by the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

In the report, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls for the international community's "urgent attention" to the situation in Central African Republic.

The "total breakdown of law and order" in the country was, Ban said, "unacceptable".

The council is expected to consider options including imposing sanctions on the Seleka rebels and ensuring that anyone responsible for flagrant human rights violations in the country of 4.5 milllion faces prosecution.

Aid agencies meanwhile have repeatedly warned that the violent aftermath of the coup exposes Central African Republic to a serious humanitarian crisis.

The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that at least 62,000 people have fled the country since the start of the latest unrest in December last year, mostly to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, itself battling armed groups in the restive east.

Another 206,000 have been internally displaced, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

Health services have also been hard-hit by the crisis. Only half of the population have proper access to healthcare, according to the World Health Organisation.

Most at risk are women and particularly children, who bear the "brunt of a vicious cycle of poverty, poor governance, conflict and political instability" said Marixie Mercado, spokeswoman for the UN children's fund UNICEF.

Djotodia said Tuesday that now "was the time to rebuild our country, focusing on our riches and our potential through rigorous and healthy governance".