EU to send troops to Central Africa

The mayor of Bangui, Catherine Samba-Panza, attends a session at the National Transitional Council (CNT) before being elected interim president of the Central African Republic on January 20. (AAP)

The EU has agreed to send troops to the strife-torn Central African Republic as the UN warned it was running out of food for the country's refugees.

The European Union has agreed to send hundreds of troops to the Central African Republic in a rare joint military mission aimed at ending months of sectarian violence.

Saying Europe was "deeply concerned by the extreme insecurity and instability" in the impoverished nation, EU foreign ministers gave "political approval" to the rapid deployment of a force expected to number between 400 and 600.

An EU-UN donors' conference in Brussels meanwhile gathered $US496 million ($A564.95 million) in pledges this year for the country, where almost one million people, or 20 per cent of the population, have been displaced by fighting.

As the European foreign ministers discussed what will be the EU's first major ground operation in six years, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the country was in "a crisis of epic proportions" and urged the world "to pull CAR back from the brink of further atrocities".

"We face a political and humanitarian emergency in the Central African Republic," said Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. "We clearly need to do something."

The UN's World Food Program (WFP) said on Monday it was running out of food for a growing number of homeless people, with the spreading unrest hobbling distribution efforts.

The WFP said 38 trucks carrying rice were stuck at the Cameroon border with the drivers refusing to cross because of the threat of attacks.

"Suspending food distributions could lead to further tension, particularly among the 100,000 displaced people in the overcrowded Bangui airport camp," the WFP warned.

The military mission is to help establish a safe and secure environment around the capital Bangui, where 1000 people were reportedly killed last month alone in clashes between Christian and Muslim militias.

It will back up French and African forces and eventually hand over to African or UN peacekeepers after a four- to six-month period.

The EU "bridging force" is likely to be asked to protect Bangui's airport, where about 120,000 people have fled in fear of the inter-communal violence.

Once a UN mandate has been obtained for the mission, which may be approved as early as Thursday in New York, EU planners hope to get troops on the ground by late February, diplomats said.

Command would be handed to France with headquarters in Greece.

Source: AAP