United Nations - A senior UN official warned on Tuesday that postponing elections beyond August in the Central African Republic could plunge the country back into violence and chaos.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council that meeting the August deadline for the elections will be "extremely challenging" in the Central African Republic.
The situation remains "highly volatile" in the country, which descended into bloodletting between Christian and Muslim rebels after the March 2013 coup against longtime leader Francois Bozize, he said.
President Catherine Samba-Panza, who took over in January, has pledged to steer the country back to recovery through presidential and legislative elections.
While the country has made some gains toward stability, a flareup in fighting in the capital Bangui in October raised fears that large-scale violence could return to the Central African Republic (CAR).
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"The risks remain high that additional disruptions in the political process and, or the security situation could put the transitional process in jeopardy," Ladsous told a meeting of the 15-member council.
"Any further delays beyond August 2015 could undermine the transition itself," he said.
The United Nations is reinforcing its Minusca peace operation in CAR, which this month will reach 80% of its 11 800-strong full-force capacity.
There have been several clashes between armed groups and the peacekeepers who began deploying in September, taking over from an African Union-led force sent to support French forces.
Three peacekeepers were wounded on 5 December in the town of Bambari, northeast of Bangui, following the arrest of anti-Balaka rebel leader John "Americain".
The Minusca force has arrested 217 people including a prominent anti-Balaka leader known as "Chocolat" who was taken in near Bouar on 24 November.
Ladsous said the international community will have to ramp up its financial and political support for CAR as its heads toward elections.
The country's authorities have yet to set firm dates for the legislative and presidential votes and to launch a voter registration drive to allow one million refugees and displaced citizens to take part.
Only France, the European Union and the UN Development Programme have so far pledged funds to cover the cost of the elections, Ladsous said.