France says time to act on Congo, EU sanctions possible

October 4, 2016 11:14 AM EDT

Joseph Kabila Kabange, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York September 25, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it was time to prevent the political situation worsening in Democratic Republic of Congo and consider imposing European Union sanctions.

The United States imposed sanctions on a general and a former senior police official on Sept. 28 in an apparent ratcheting up of pressure on President Joseph Kabila to hold an election for his successor in November.

Dozens of people have died in clashes between security forces and protesters angered by what opposition groups say is Kabila's plan to postpone the vote and retain power beyond his two-term limit.

"It is necessary to act to stop the situation from worsening in DRC," Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters.

"France wants the European Union to use all means at its disposal, including if necessary and in function of the evolution of the situation, resorting to sanctions' measures against those guilty of serious human rights violations or those who block an exit to the crisis."

Kabila denies planning to retain power. His government has said the November election must be postponed because of logistical problems.

The vast, mineral-rich central African state has never experienced a peaceful transition of power. Donors fear growing political instability could turn into armed conflict in a country plagued by militias, especially in the lawless east.

Millions of people died in regional wars in Congo between 1996 and 2003 that drew in armies from half a dozen countries.

Speaking on TV5 Monde on Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Kabila should step aside and allow the election to take place immediately.

"The constitution must be respected, a date must be fixed for the elections and a real national dialogue needs to really take place. Mr Kabila does not have the right to stand for re-election and he needs to set the example," Ayrault said.

(Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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