NEW YORK, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The United Nations Security Council voted Tuesday to extend a UN peacekeeping mandate in the Central African Republic and authorize the use of force by European Union troops.
Out of concern for the "increasing cycle of violence and retaliation," the council voted to extend the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR through January 31, 2015. The extension will enable BINUCA to support CAR's government transition and help the government reclaim constitutional order.
The council urged the transitional government, led by the newly appointed interim president and former mayor of the capital Catherine Samba-Panza, to work quickly to hold "free and fair" elections.
Both the U.S. and UN have expressed a desire for CAR's elections to be held by February 2015, with the UN noting Tuesday that it would be more desirable to hold them sooner, within the first six months of 2014.
The council also authorized a new six-month international operation by EU troops "to take all necessary measures" -- in other words, allowing the use of force. The council called on member states as well as CAR's neighboring countries, to support the EU operation by "facilitating personnel, equipment, provisions, supplies and other goods, vehicles and spare parts intended by these troops." In December, the council authorized a French-backed peacekeeping force to deploy to CAR.
CAR has been rocked by violence since the Muslim-backed Séléka group took control of the capital city of Bangui in March 2013 and removed Christian President François Bozizé. Renewed violence broke out in Bangui on December 5, 2013, leaving 16 children dead and 60 injured.
In January, a UN official briefed the UN Security Council about the "grave" deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in CAR. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described the situation in CAR as "a crisis of epic proportions."