C.Africa president calls for lifting UN arms embargo

Catherine Samba-Panza, President of the Transitional Government of the Central African Republic, speaks during the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary) (AFP)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza called Saturday for lifting a UN arms embargo on her country to allow the military forces to be equipped and shore up UN peacekeepers.

In her first address to the UN General Assembly, Samba-Panza also appealed for international support to disarm militias fueling violence in CAR, one of Africa's poorest countries which plunged into conflict after a March 2013 coup.

Thanking countries that contributed troops to a recently-deployed UN force in CAR, the president noted that "the success of this mission also depends on the involvement of national defense and security forces supporting the mission with their knowledge of the terrain."

"I would like to appeal to the sanctions committee's understanding for a review of the arms embargo on the Central African Republic," she said.

The UN Security Council imposed the embargo in December 2013 as the country was engulfed in sectarian violence between mainly Christian militias and Muslim fighters.

More than a quarter of CAR's population of 4.8 million has been displaced by the strife, with only one Muslim district remaining in the capital, Bangui.

The conflict has been marked by lynchings, rape and looting.

Samba-Panza, who took the helm of the troubled nation eight months ago, said it was "also urgent" that militias still roaming the country were disarmed and called for support from the international community.

The 7,600-strong UN mission took over on September 15 from a smaller African Union force, and is working alongside 2,000 French forces.

Samba-Panza raised concern about the growing "terrorism" threat, noting that Nigeria's Boko Haram was active in Cameroon, "not far from my country's borders," while the brutal Lord's Resistance Army was still waging attacks in CAR.

The former mayor of Bangui pledged to lead her country to elections and seek prosecutions for serious crimes at the International Criminal Court.