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France: CAR president, PM announce resignation

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 12:54 PM EST, Fri January 10, 2014
A Central African Republic police officer chases looters attacking a broken-down truck Friday, February 7, in the capital of Bangui. The country, a former French colony, was plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels ousted President Francois Bozize. A Central African Republic police officer chases looters attacking a broken-down truck Friday, February 7, in the capital of Bangui. The country, a former French colony, was plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels ousted President Francois Bozize.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: French ministry says interim leaders of Central African Republic stepping down
  • Fighting has displaced nearly 1 million people from their homes, U.N. agency says
  • The agency appeals for $40.2 million to help it respond to the crisis
  • Agency resumes aid deliveries to about 100,000 refugees at Bangui airport

(CNN) -- Two interim leaders of the war-torn Central African Republic have announced their resignations, the French Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Interim President Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye said they were stepping down at the Central African States summit in N'Djamena, Chad, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement.

The development comes despite an earlier denial from a Djotodia spokesman that the interim president was resigning at the regional summit in Chad.

The country plunged into chaos last year after a coalition of rebels dubbed Seleka ousted President Francois Bozize, the latest in a series of coups since it gained independence.

Rebels infiltrated the capital in March, sending Bozize fleeing to Cameroon. Djotodia, one of the Seleka leaders, became interim President.

Since then, political turmoil and violence have spiraled. Seleka is a predominantly Muslim coalition, and to counter the attacks on Christian communities, vigilante Christian groups have fought back. The United Nations has said it fears a genocide is brewing, and aid agencies warn of a humanitarian crisis.

U.N. aid deliveries resume at capital's airport

Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency resumed aid deliveries earlier this week to an estimated 100,000 people who've sought refuge from the violence at the capital's international airport.

The UNHCR had halted assistance to the refugees thronged at the airport in Bangui amid security concerns. But the distribution of food and supplies started again Tuesday after steps were taken to calm the situation, including the deployment of African Union and French peacekeeping troops around the airport, a news release said Thursday.

The UNHCR will now distribute aid including blankets, sleeping mats, soap, mosquito nets and plastic sheets to some 20,000 families, or about 100,000 people, it said.

"It is a relief for UNHCR and the displaced people staying at the airport site. We had to suspend distribution of aid on several occasions, and were frustrated that we could not properly assist people living on this site due to security concerns," said Kouassi Lazare Etien, the agency's representative in the Central African Republic.

People at the airport are "living in a desperate situation," he added.

More than 1,000 families have been moved to another part of the airport zone, which should ease the delivery of aid, the U.N. refugee agency said.

It appealed Friday for $40.2 million to help respond to the crisis over the next three months.

The money is intended to support more than 1 million people, the agency said, including 958,000 people displaced by fighting, many of whom are children.

There are also more than 86,000 refugees in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo who fled the Central African Republic in 2013, the UNHCR said.

The latest appeal comes on the back of previous U.N. requests for funds and reflects the worsening situation in the country, the UNHCR said.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders warned this week of measles outbreaks among children in camps in Bangui.

The group is vaccinating 68,000 children in five camps to prevent an outbreak. Measles, which can be deadly to children, is highly contagious and can spread rapidly in overcrowded conditions.

CNN's Alexander Felton, Faith Karimi, Pierre Meilhan, Azadeh Ansari and Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report.

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