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French MPs visit CAR ahead of vote on military intervention

media French Socialist MP Élisabeth Guigou RFI

A delegation of 10 French MPs were to travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) on Monday for a one-day visit ahead of a vote in the French parliament on whether to extend or stop the French Sangaris military operation there.

Although the French intervention was intended to be short, France has made little progress so far in the CAR as sectarian violence shows little sign of abating.

MPs must vote soon to endorse or oppose the government's decision to send troops.

Last week Paris said it would send 400 more soldiers, although it was also able to announce on Sunday that a much-hoped-for European contingent would be sent within a few weeks.

The visit is an initiative of the Socialist head of the French parliament's foreign affairs committee, Elisabeth Guigou.

French MPs need to see what's happening on the ground before making a decision, she told RFI.

"I suggested this visit two or three weeks ago, because it seemed legitimate that MPs see the on-site progress of the operation Sangaris with their own eyes before the vote to extend the mission on 25 February," she said. "We will meet with CAR political authorities first - President Catherine Samba-Panza, Prime Minister André Nzapayéké, as well as the foreign affairs, defense and public safety ministers."

The MPs were also to meet the heads of the French and African military operations in the CAR and hopes to see local NGOs.

Guigou believes that there is consensus in parliament on extending the operation and even to beef it up.

Nzapayéké on Sunday met leaders of Christian anti-balaka militias, some of whom said they were "ready to cooperate to restore peace" although many have been involved in reprisals against Muslim Séléka militias.

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