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France vows to prevent C. African Republic breakup

Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza greeted Francois Hollande.

Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza greeted Francois Hollande.

BOZOUM, Central African Republic — Thousands of international troops dispatched to volatile Central African Republic are there to help keep the country from breaking apart, France’s president said Friday, days after the French Parliament voted to prolong the country’s mission in its former colony wracked by violence between Christians and Muslims.

It was the second visit to the capital, Bangui, by President Francois Hollande since France boosted its troop levels here to 1,600 in December as part of “Operation Sangaris.”

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Three months later, France has promised another 400 soldiers, and the neighborhood immediately surrounding the airport remains a hotbed of fighting between peacekeepers and the militiamen they are seeking to disarm.

With a European force of 1,000 on the way and African forces already there, Hollande said a total of 9,000 soldiers would be in place to “end the score settling, reestablish the government’s authority, allow dialogue, and avoid the slightest attempt to partition Central African Republic.”

The French mission has become more complex than anticipated, raising fears of a protracted and bloody conflict. Two French soldiers have been killed while trying to disarm fighters here. In recent months, frustration has grown with the lack of security in many neighborhoods.

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