EU-Africa leaders to tackle CAR

BANGUI - African and European leaders will tackle the conflict in the Central African Republic at a special meeting on the sidelines of a summit in Brussels on Wednesday.

The European Union (EU) has officially launched its military mission to CAR, unveiling plans to send 1,000 troops to bolster African and French forces.

The UN has warned that 19,000 Muslims "face slaughter" in CAR.

Trade and immigration will also feature prominently at the summit.

It is expected to be attended by 30 heads of state and government - 15 each from Africa and Europe.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe is boycotting the summit after the EU refused to temporarily lift a visa ban on his wife, Grace.

Mr Mugabe received support from South African President Jacob Zuma, who chose to boycott the summit in a show of solidarity for his Zimbabwean counterpart.

"I think that time must pass wherein we are looked [upon] as subjects," Mr Zuma said. "We are told who must come, who must not come. It is wrong and causes this unnecessary unpleasantness."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will attend the crisis meeting on CAR with EU and African leaders.

Mr Ban said the people of CAR were facing "grave and deplorable atrocities", and he promised to do everything possible to improve the international response to the conflict.

The EU force was due to be deployed last month, but was delayed because of insufficient troop and aircraft commitments from the group's 28 member-states.

The EU said its troops would operate in CAR's capital, Bangui, which is worst-affected by the conflict.

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