France hopes the UN Security Council will vote a resolution on Thursday giving a formal mandate to African and French forces to try to restore order in lawless Central African Republic, a French envoy said.
The 15-member council has had "intense negotiations" on a draft resolution and there should be a vote Thursday "at the latest", France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters.
Negotiations are being held amid mounting calls for international action on Central African Republic where the transitional government has lost control of the country since rebels forced the president to flee in March.
What started as rebel looting of villages and towns has degenerated into attacks between Muslim and Christian militias with some UN officials warning of a possible genocide.
The proposed UN resolution would give a mandate to an African Union force to "stabilize" the giant, impoverished country and "protect civilians".
The growing French military presence would support the AU force.
The text calls on UN leader Ban Ki-moon should produce a report in three months on whether a formal UN peacekeeping force should take over.
Araud said it was not a foregone conclusion that a UN force would be launched.
"At this stage, it is difficult to know whether the African force, with the support of French forces, will be able to do the work," Araud told a press conference. "If the African force does the work there will be no need for a peacekeeping mission," he added.
The AU force is currently about 2,500 troops and is to increase to 3,600 this month. Some western countries say the force is not big enough to cope and Ban said in a recent report that 6,000-9,000 troops would be needed if the UN steps in.
France plans to double its military contingent in Central African Republic to about 1,000 troops. Araud said they would concentrate on the capital Bangui and securing key routes for humanitarian operations.