The EU is considering whether to send its own military force to the Central African Republic, where more than a thousand people have died in recent violence.
Officials proposed on Wednesday the deployment of between 700 and 1,000 troops to reinforce the 1,600 French troops who are already there, amid warnings by the UN of an imminent humanitarian disaster.
EU diplomats will discuss the proposals for the first time on Friday as turmoil sweeps CAR.
The different options for a possible EU military mission were contained in a paper circulated on Wednesday by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, who was acting on a request last month by EU leaders.
The developments follow reports that Michel Djotodia, the country’s president, was preparing to step down.
Djotodia, who deposed Francois Bozize in a coup last March, was due to meet regional leaders in Chad on Thursday.
Reporting from the CAR capital Bangui on Wedneday, Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips said: “There is a consensus that President Djotodia is not part of the solution to the country’s terrible problems.
“His short spell in power has been nothing short of disastrous. The French want him out; they are very important players and always have been.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera, J Peter Pham, Africa Center director of the Atlantic Council, said Djotodia had lost “whatever minimal base” he had in the country.
“Now, he has no constituency,” Pham said. “He is actually an obstacle to any progress towards a new transition to a possibility of reconciliation in the country.”
CAR has been plunged into chaos as the country’s Christian majority seeks revenge against Muslim rebels, with the fighting between religious groups intensifying in December.
|J. Peter Pham, Africa Center director of the Atlantic Council, discusses Djotodia’s role in the CAR crisis|
UN officials have told the Security Council that the country is on the brink of a catastrophe, with half the population made homeless since ethnic warfare broke out.
Jeffrey Feltman, UN political affairs chief, told the world body on Monday that about 2.2 million people – about half the total population – throughout the country needed assistance.
About half the people in Bangui – a total of about 513,000 – have been driven from their homes, he said.
An estimated 100,000 people have sought shelter at a makeshift camp at the airport near the city.
A report in late December by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, reported 600 deaths in Bangui in those attacks, and Feltman put the current total at “750 casualties”.
“The death toll outside Bangui is likely to be substantial,” he said.
“Killings in Bangui and the rest of the country continue every day, and the population remains divided along religious affiliation.”