C. Africa slams France for not sharing soldier child abuse claims

French soldiers patrol in Bangui, Central African Republic on December 4, 2014 (AFP Photo/Pacome Pabandji)

Paris (AFP) - The Central African Republic's transitional president Catherine Samba Panza accused France on Wednesday of keeping her in the dark about allegations of child sex abuse by French peacekeepers in her country.

"We have simply regretted not being informed much earlier that the investigation was taking place," she told reporters after meeting officials on a visit to Paris.

"We insisted on being included in the process," she said, adding that she had made clear her concerns during a meeting with French President Francois Hollande earlier in the day.

Fourteen French soldiers are under investigation after a group of children alleged troops sexually abused minors at a centre for displaced people in CAR's capital Bangui between December 2013 and June 2014.

Some of the abuse reportedly took place after the children begged the peacekeepers for food.

Samba Panza's comments struck a starkly different tone to the statement released by Hollande's office after their meeting, in which the French president claimed there was "perfect cooperation" between the two countries in the investigation.

Although France sent police to investigate the claims after receiving an internal United Nations report last August, no children or soldiers were questioned and the information was not made public.

It was only after The Guardian newspaper reported on the affair last month that a full, public investigation was launched.

Both France and the UN have denied there was a cover-up, but a UN official who leaked the report to France last summer was temporarily suspended for disclosing the information.

French and UN peacekeepers were sent to CAR in late 2013 after the country descended into violence between competing militias, leaving thousands dead and some 900,000 displaced.

Samba Panza met with Hollande early on Wednesday before meeting with the head of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, Michaelle Jean.

In the statement from his office, Hollande hailed recent peace efforts in CAR aimed at disarming militias and freeing child soldiers, as well as preparing for elections.

The president "welcomed the effective deployment of the United Nations Minusca mission, which is allowing the progressive reduction of the French military operation," the statement added.