French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Europe's top aid official flew into the Central African Republic on Sunday to push for more global action to prevent the deeply troubled country from imploding.

"The situation in one word: desperate. What is unique is that the entire population is impacted by the conflict," said Europe's humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva.

The Central African Republic, one of the poorest countries on the planet with a long history of instability, has descended into anarchy since rebels overthrew president Francoise Bozize in March.

"We need to do humanitarian (work) but also restoring the state, because if the state is gone, warlords are going to take over," said Georgieva.

The visit comes just days after the UN Security Council called for a possible UN peacekeeping force for the country to shore up a 1,400-strong African Union mission.

Violence has surged between ex-rebels of the Seleka coalition that led the coup -- who are Muslim -- and local vigilante groups formed by Christian residents in rural areas.

Seleka leader Michel Djotodia was formally installed as interim president in August to lead an 18-month transition.

He has struggled for months to restore order, and distanced himself from Seleka by disbanding the coalition in September, but it continues to operate as a militia.

As well as deadly fighting, there have been reports of children being forced into rival militias, mass rapes and looting in several towns.

The UN resolution drafted by former colonial power France and approved by the Security Council on Thursday voiced deep concern at the "total breakdown of law and order."

Some 1.6 million people nationwide -- one third of the population -- need humanitarian aid and nearly 300,000 are internally displaced or have fled to neighbouring countries, according to UN figures.

"There's an explosive cocktail in Central Africa, and we fear it could become a call to arms for all militant groups in the region," a French diplomatic source said.

He was referring to the presence of Chadian and Sudanese fighters and members of the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army, as well as the possible arrival of Islamist militants chased from Mali or Nigeria.

The Central African Republic, in the heart of equatorial Africa, has a population of about five million, with about 80 percent Christian and 10 percent Muslim.

Fabius was welcomed at Bangui airport with singers and musicians waving French flags and a banner appealing to the French president: "Hollande, we want peace."

He is due to meet Djotodia as well as Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye in talks expected to focus on French demands for the respect of the roadmap that launched the 18-month political transition to pave the way for early elections.

 

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