The UN Security Council has approved military action by French and African troops in the Central African Republic.
The resolution authorises them to use “appropriate measures” to protect civilians and bring an end to the Muslim-Christian sectarian violence which has swept the country since the president was overthrown in March.
The UN vote came on a day when more than 100 people were killed as rival militias fought fierce battles in the capital.
Many of the bodies which were brought to the city’s mosque appeared to have been clubbed or hacked to death.
More than 1,000 French troops have been waiting on the border with Cameroon ready to deploy. They will join more than 600 French soldiers based at the capital Bangui’s airport as well as African Union forces.
At a briefing at the French Defence Ministry in Paris, spokesman Gilles Jarron described preparations for the mission.
“For the past 15 days, in anticipation of a decision, French armed forces have sent specialists to prepare, if the order were given, for the arrival of additional troops,” Jarron said.