Brussels - French Major General Philippe Ponties was named Tuesday to head a European Union military operation in the Central African Republic.

He will begin operational planning for EUFOR RCA after the UN Security Council earlier Tuesday backed a resolution allowing an EU contingent to “use all necessary force” to protect civilians caught up in sectarian strife in the country.

EU foreign ministers agreed on January 20 to send up to 1 000 soldiers to help stabilize Central African Republic, the bloc's first major military operation in six years.

The operation is to contribute, for up to six months, to ensuring a safe and secure environment in the area of the capital Bangui.

The force will back French and African peacekeepers with a view to handing over to the African Union.

Sapa-AFP