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UN chief welcomes election of interim president in CAR

UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Monday the election of Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president of the Central African Republic ( CAR), calling it an opportunity to put the country's transition back on track.

The UN chief said in a statement that he congratulates Samba- Panza on her election and "looks forward to the nomination of a new Prime Minister in the coming days."

"The change of leadership in the CAR offers a critical opportunity to put the transition process back on track," Ban said.

In the meantime, Ban remains "extremely concerned" about the ongoing sectarian violence in the country, where some 2.6 million people need humanitarian assistance. He urged countries to immediately deliver on international pledges made earlier in the day.

Nearly half a billion U.S. dollars were pledged for the CAR on Monday at a high-level meeting organized in Brussels by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the European Commission.

Ban also appeals for support of the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA). The UN Security Council passed a resolution in December 2013 authorizing increased military action by MISCA and French troops in the CAR to end violence.

The CAR, with a population of 4.6 million, has been marred by coups and rebellions. The situation took a sharp turn for the worse in March 2013 when the rebel group Seleka Alliance ousted President Francois Bozize.

A transitional government has been entrusted with a mandate to restore law and order and pave the way for democratic elections, only to see a resurgence of armed clashes between the ex-rebel Seleka troops and Christian militia.

Criticized for inability to end the violence that plunged the country into security and humanitarian chaos for several months, former Transition President Michel Djotodia and his Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye were forced to resign earlier this month.

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