France will send 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic, which has been in turmoil since March when rebel groups overthrew the president, the country's defence minister said today.
It is the second time this year that France has sent forces to a former colony, and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said it was needed to keep chaos at bay in Central African Republic.
France has about 2,800 troops in Mali, an operation which began after rebels and al Qaida-linked militants moved to take over the capital.
Mr Le Drian told Europe 1 radio: "We cannot have a country in collapse like that."
He said the French troops would join an African force.
The rebels have been accused by rights groups of committing atrocities including killings, rapes and conscription of child soldiers.
The confirmation from Mr Le Drian came a day after a top UN official warned of mass atrocities and possible civil war in one of the world's poorest countries following the ousting of the president.
"There is the violence, massacres and humanitarian chaos that follow a collapse," Mr Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. "It will be a short mission to allow calm and stability to return."
He dismissed any comparison between the CAR mission and the one in Mali.
"In Mali there was an attack of jihadists, terrorists who wanted to transform Mali into a terrorist state. This is a collapse of a country with a potential for religious clashes," he said. "France has international responsibilities."
France will accompany an African force of troops from neighbouring countries, in a mission expected to last about six months, he said.
In a briefing to the UN Security Council yesterday, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the situation in the Central African Republic was deteriorating so rapidly - with the country becoming "a breeding ground for extremists and armed groups" and never-before-seen sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians - that a UN peacekeeping force may soon be the only option.