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US weighs 'targeted' Central African Republic sanctions

A resident of the Miskine neighborhood in Bangui asks French soldiers for assistance in locating disappeared family members on January 26, 2014
A resident of the Miskine neighborhood in Bangui asks French soldiers for assistance in locating disappeared family members on January 26, 2014

The United States is weighing "targeted" sanctions against those fueling violence in strife-torn Central African Republic, Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.

A fresh wave of sporadic shooting, looting and violence in downtown Bangui heaped pressure on the new interim authorities drawing up a strategy to end months of bloodshed.

Kerry said the newly-appointed transitional government headed by Catherine Samba-Panza "offers the people of CAR an opportunity to rebuild their society and restore their tradition of tolerance."

Repeating President Barack Obama's call for peace in the restive country, the top US diplomat said "the United States stands with Transitional President Samba-Panza" in her reconciliation efforts and bid to hold elections by February 2015.

"The United States is prepared to consider targeted sanctions against those who further destabilize the situation, or pursue their own selfish ends by abetting or encouraging the violence," Kerry said in a statement.

"We will continue to work tirelessly with our international partners to hold accountable all those responsible for atrocities committed in CAR."

Shots were also heard overnight in the capital's Miskine district, which is patrolled by troops from the 5,200-strong African Union force MISCA and the 1,600-strong French army contingent Sangaris backing them.

The United States has pledged up to $101 million in transportation, equipment, training and logistical support to MISCA.

"Restoring security in CAR is vital to stopping the violence and ending the dire humanitarian crisis jeopardizing the lives of the millions throughout the country," Kerry said.

"We continue to support efforts by the African Union, regional leaders, and our French allies to disarm all armed groups."

The French force first intervened in December and set to disarming the former Seleka rebels who had terrorised the country after carrying out a March coup and installing their leader Michel Djotodia, as president.

Djotodia failed to rein in a wave of killing, raping and looting by his former fighters, leading to the emergence of Christian vigilante groups that are accused of committing atrocities of their own against Muslims, including civilian massacres.

Kerry also called on CAR's neighbors to ensure no arms or other support flowed through their borders to armed groups and to halt any efforts to raise tensions in the conflict from their territory.

"The United States is deeply concerned by renewed inter-religious violence in the Central African Republic. We condemn attacks by both anti-Balaka and Seleka groups in Bangui and the provinces," he added.

"We are also deeply disturbed by reports that some CAR leaders may be supporting attacks by anti-Balaka and Seleka, respectively, instead of working for peace and reconciliation."

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