The mayor of Bangui, Catherine Samba-Panza, was elected interim president of the Central African Republic on Monday, as the European Union agreed to send hundreds of troops to help restore peace to the country torn by sectarian bloodshed.

Samba-Panza, a businesswoman with a reputation as a fighter who became mayor of the capital in 2011, was elected in a second-round vote by the transitional parliament, becoming the chronically unstable country?s first woman leader.

Cheers broke out in the assembly as the result was announced, with lawmakers singing the national anthem in celebration.

In her victory speech, Samba-Panza ? who won 75 votes against 53 for Desire Kolingba, the son of a former president ? urged Christian and Muslim militias to lay down their arms to put an end to months of sectarian bloodshed.

?Show your support for my nomination by giving the strong signal of laying down your weapons,? Samba-Panza ? who is Christian but did not campaign on a religious platform ? told the Christian self-defence militia known as ?anti-balaka? (anti-machete).

She issued a similar appeal to the members of mostly Muslim rebel group Seleka, telling them: ?Stop the suffering of the people.?

?Starting today, I am the president of all Central Africans, without exclusion,? said Samba-Panza, 59.

?The top priority is to stop people?s suffering, to restore security and the authority of the state across the country.?

European Union foreign ministers meanwhile agreed to send hundreds of troops to the country in a rare joint military mission.

Source AFP

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