UN chief urges action on Central African Republic

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Photo - United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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BRUSSELS (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged European and African nations on Wednesday to step up their efforts to end the desperate plight of the people of Central African Republic.

Speaking on the sidelines of a summit meant to promote economic ties, Ban appealed to 70 European and African leaders in Brussels to support more robust action.

"We must act quickly to stop the killings, protect the civilian population and prevent a further separation of communities," Ban said.

Hatred toward a now deposed-government of Muslim rebels in the country ignited bitter violence between Muslims and Christians. What started as political disputes have become increasingly sectarian, with mosques set ablaze, Qurans destroyed and Muslims killed.

The 28-nation EU decided in February to back a French military operation aimed at stopping the sectarian violence. The arrival of the EU contingent of an expected 1,000 troops plus medical and support teams would allow the French to conduct wider military operations outside the capital, Bangui. The first few hundred EU troops are set to be deployed later this month.

The EU has pledged a total of 352 million euros ($485 million) in humanitarian and development aid for this and last year. As the crisis worsened, Britain announced Wednesday to up its bilateral aid this year by 6 million pounds ($10 million) to 18 million pounds ($30 million).

The EU-Africa summit also focused on opportunities arising from closer cooperation.

"Africa is gaining importance," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding Europe should increase its business ties with the continent. "Most of all we want to see the opportunities, not only always the problems."

Besides business opportunities, the summit was also touching on development aid. The 28 EU nations granted Africa 141 billion euros in development assistance from 2007 to 2013.

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