U.N. arms embargo on CAR extended for year, China abstains

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FILE PHOTO: 75th annual United Nations General Assembly to be held mostly virtually due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in New York

(Corrects name of Chinese envoy to Dai Bing)

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The United Nations Security Council on Thursday extended a Central African Republic (CAR) arms embargo and targeted sanctions regime for another year, however China abstained in the vote because it believes the measures should be removed.

The 15-member Security Council imposed the arms embargo on CAR in December 2013 when mainly Muslim Selaka rebels ousted then president Francois Bozize, prompting reprisals from mostly Christian militias. A targeted sanctions regime was agreed in 2014, when U.N. peacekeepers were also deployed to the country.

The gold and diamond-rich country of 4.7 million people has since been mired in violence.

"There appears to be a growing disconnect between the Security Council sanctions and the evolving situation on the ground," China's deputy U.N. Ambassador Dai Bing told the council after the vote.

"The intention was to help CAR restore national stability and normal social order. In reality, however, the arms embargo has increasingly become an obstacle that hampers the CAR government's efforts to strengthen security capabilities," he said.

The remaining 14 Security Council members voted in favor of extending the arms embargo. The CAR government is able to import weapons with the approval of the U.N. Security Council's CAR sanctions committee.

Russia's deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy encouraged the CAR government to meet U.N. benchmarks that would allow the council to consider lifting the arms embargo next year. Moscow has been jockeying for influence in CAR with France.

A U.N. report, seen by Reuters last month, accused Russian military instructors and CAR troops of targeting civilians with excessive force, indiscriminate killings, occupation of schools and large-scale looting.

The Kremlin has said it is a lie that Russian instructors had taken part in killings or robberies.

Russia recently sent a group of 600 military instructors to CAR to train the army, police, and national gendarmerie, Russia's foreign ministry said earlier this month.

(Reporting by Michelle NicholsEditing by Alexandra Hudson)

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