France, Russia, US wrangle at UN over CAR

France, Russia and the United States were locked in negotiations on Wednesday to overcome differences over peace efforts in the Central African Republic ahead of a deadline for renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission there.

The Security Council must vote on prolonging the 12 000-strong MINUSCA mission in the Central African Republic by midnight on Thursday, when the mission's mandate expires.

Russia and the United States have raised objections to a French-drafted text presented last week that would see UN peacekeepers offer support to newly-trained national troops as they deploy across the country.

The draft resolution, seen by AFP, also takes aim at recent Russian efforts to broker peace deals in CAR by specifying that an African-led initiative is "the only framework" for a solution.

Working with Sudan, Russia in August convened talks in Khartoum of Central African militias who signed a preliminary agreement, drawing criticism from France of unhelpful meddling.

"It's a kind of jealousy that we see," Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told AFP. "We think that the efforts that were deployed in Khartoum don't contradict the African initiative."

"We do not like the current draft," Polyanskiy said, adding that he was hopeful that a compromise could be reached.

The European Union has trained more than 3 000 men and women to serve in the Central African armed forces while Russia and France have provided them with weapons and other military equipment, with UN approval.

Russia has also provided training to hundreds of troops and is insisting that MINUSCA support those forces, diplomats said.

Clock ticking 

The proposal is facing resistance from the United States, which says it is seeking to streamline peacekeeping operations to reduce costs and make them more effective.

Washington is insisting that any logistical support provided by MINUSCA should not lead to additional expenses for the mission, diplomats said.

The US mission to the United Nations declined to comment on negotiations.

A French diplomat said the council was holding "extensive discussions on the text, with the aim of agreeing on a draft by tomorrow that will accommodate everyone."

If no agreement is reached by Thursday however, the council could adopt a temporary renewal of MINUSCA to allow negotiations to continue.

The Central African Republic is struggling to recover from the bloodletting that exploded in 2013 after the ouster of leader Francois Bozize, a Christian, by mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

The current president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, controls only a fraction of the country, most of which is overrun by militants who claim to protect either the Christian or Muslim communities.

MINUSCA is the UN's fourth largest mission, after the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Mali.

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