UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (UPI) -- Religious divisions in the Central African Republic are being exploited for political purposes, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Ban met with Christian and Islamic leaders from CAR at the headquarters of the United Nations to discuss ongoing crises in the country.
The United Nations said about half the population needs some form of humanitarian and "thousands" have been killed since the armed Seleka coalition staged a rebellion in December 2012. Seleka toppled the government in March 2013 and the conflict has since approached the verge of civil war as the Christian anti-balaka group fights with its Sunni Muslim rivals.
Ban, however, said the crisis is not about religion.
"Religious and ethnic affiliations are being manipulated for political purposes," he said in a statement Thursday.
Ban said the religious leaders he met with said they "refused" to be enemies.
Former President Michel Djotodia hails from Seleka. Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza is a Christian.
The French government last year sent troops to CAR to help with security operations in its former colony. The secretary-general said more troops are needed to help protect civilians caught up in the fighting.