The European Union banned the export of arms and the sending of mercenaries to Central African Republic, which is racked by sectarian violence.

The ban which was announced on Monday follows a UN Security Council resolution this month requiring all countries to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materials to the landlocked, mineral-rich nation of 4.6 million people.

The EU ban covers financial and technical assistance, including mercenary personnel, but exempts materials used solely for international peacekeeping efforts and by French forces deployed in the Central African Republic.

Speaking in Brussels last Friday, French President Francois Hollande said the 28-nation EU would decide next month on a joint operation in the Central African Republic to support a French military intervention.

France sent some 1,600 troops to its former colony this month to stop massacres between Muslim and Christian militia triggered by a March coup.

Central African Republic is rich in gold, diamonds and uranium, but decades of instability and the spillover from conflicts in its larger neighbours have left the country mired in cycles of crises.

On Monday Chadian peacekeepers opened fire on a crowd demonstrating against their presence in the capital Bangui, killing one person and injuring several others, protesters said.

An officer with the African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA) confirmed that Chadian peacekeepers had clashed with demonstrators near the airport, but could not confirm the death or provide any further details.

The clash was the latest sign of rising tensions between the majority Christian population in Bangui and Muslim Chadian forces, which are complicating international efforts to calm inter-religious violence in the large, landlocked African state.

Locals accuse the Chadian troops of siding with Muslim Seleka rebels, who seized power in March, unleashing a wave of looting and killings. Many of the Seleka rebels come from Chad.

Source: Reuters