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'We underestimated C-African hate'

France underestimated the hatred and resentment between Christian and Muslim communities in the conflict-torn Central African Republic where people are being killed because of their religion or ethnicity, the United Nations has been told.

France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud told a meeting on the prevention of genocide that African and French soldiers in the impoverished country "are facing a situation where we are between two communities which want to kill each other".

"It is nearly an impossible situation for the African and French soldiers," he said.

Mr Araud said France was discussing what the soldiers should do to prevent people from killing each other "when they desperately want to" and cool the violent situation.

He said calls for an end to the fighting by religious leaders were being ignored.

Central African Republic has long teetered on the brink of anarchy, but the new unrest unleashed by a March 2013 coup has ignited previously unseen sectarian hatred between Christians and Muslims. More than 1,000 people were killed in December alone and nearly one million displaced.

The United States closed its embassy in Bangui last year and urged its citizens to leave, but many Africans with businesses and family ties to Central African Republic chose to stay after the coup.

France sent 1,600 troops to bolster an African Union force expected to reach 3,000 troops. But the imperative to leave now has increased as the country's minority Muslim population has come under growing recriminatory attacks from Christians.

AP

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