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France predicts unanimous approval for UN peacekeeping force for Central African Republic

France is predicting that the U.N. Security Council will vote unanimously Thursday to authorize a nearly 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force for Central African Republic, which has been torn by mounting violence between Christians and Muslims.

The 10,000 U.N. troops and 1,800 police would take over from more than 5,000 African Union soldiers — but not until Sept. 15.

France, the country's former colonial power which drafted the resolution, scheduled the vote for Thursday morning. A separate 2,000-strong French force in the Central African Republic would be authorized to use "all necessary means" to support the new U.N. force, to be known as MINUSCA.

Central African Republic has been in chaos since a March 2013 coup, when mostly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power and launched a brutal regime. Christian Anti-Balaka militiamen attacked Seleka strongholds in the capital, Bangui, in early December, and as the rebel government crumbled in January the anti-Balaka stepped up the violence, forcing tens of thousands of Muslims to flee.

The draft resolution expresses serious concern at multiple violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed by both former Seleka elements and anti-Balaka militia including killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, sexual violence against women and children, rape and attacks on civilians, "in particular but not limited to Muslims," and attacks on places of worship.

The draft resolution "demands that all militias and armed groups put aside their arms, cease all forms of violence and destabilizing activities immediately and release children from their ranks."

The Security Council wants a strong mandate and the draft would authorize the new U.N. force to protect civilians and support the disarmament of combatants and the restoration of peace and law and order. It would also authorize MINUSCA to help investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law by armed groups including former Seleka rebel and the anti-Balaka.

While U.N. peacekeepers and police will not take over until Sept. 15, the draft resolution will establish the U.N. mission, to be known as MINUSCA, immediately. It will take over all activities of the U.N. political office in Bangui, including supporting the political transition process, humanitarian assistance and human rights monitoring.

The draft welcomes Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for "revitalization and acceleration of the political and reconciliation process in order to lay the ground for an end to the conflict," and it urges the transitional authorities to accelerate preparations for free and fair elections no later than February 2015.

Once MINUSCA is established, the African Union force on the ground will receive logistical support from the United Nations. Many of its members are likely to become part of the new U.N. force after being checked to ensure they meet U.N. standards.

The draft resolution stresses "that all perpetrators of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses must be held accountable and that some of these acts may amount to crimes under the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court."

It would authorize MINUSCA to help investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law by armed groups, including ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka, "and to contribute to efforts to identify and prosecute perpetrators."

The draft notes that Central African Republic is a state party to the ICC and the court's prosecutor has opened a preliminary examination of alleged crimes committed in CAR since September 2012.