Men run as Chadian soldiers approach, in Bangui. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Prague - United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on Friday strongly condemned the drawn-out conflict in the Central African Republic that has left thousands dead and over a million displaced.

“I am deeply troubled by the appalling atrocities against the civilians there,” the UN secretary general told reporters during a visit to Czech capital Prague.

He added that he hoped the European Union, the African Union and the United Nations would “work together to establish peace and stability” in the gold- and diamond-rich country with a population of 4.6 million people.

About a quarter of its residents have been displaced and hundreds of thousands of others face starvation because of the conflict between the Christian majority and minority Muslims, according to UN agencies and aid charities.

“Central Africa is one of my top priorities (and) it will be my continuing priority,” said the 69-year-old Ban, who heads to Rwanda on Saturday to attend ceremonies for the 20th anniversary of that country's genocide.

Ban told Czech media later on Friday that he had asked Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka to send troops to the Central African Republic as part of a planned UN mission comprising 12 000 soldiers and police officers.

Czech Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky said the ministry would deal with the request “without delay” and that Ban was particularly interested in a Czech field hospital and transport aircraft.

Earlier this week a statement released by Ban's spokesman on the Central African Republic called for the compilation of a list of individuals who “act to undermine peace, stability and security” in the country.

Ban's statement on Monday included a reminder that anyone involved in spreading violence either directly or indirectly “will be held accountable for their actions and brought to justice.”