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U.N. to send peacekeepers to Central African Republic

UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council on Thursday voted unanimously to send 12,000 peacekeepers authorized to do whatever necessary to protect civilians in the Central African Republic, where a vicious sectarian conflict has effectively partitioned the country into Christian and Muslim swaths and left a trail of gruesome killings.

France, which wrote the resolution, has said it will keep its 2,000-member force in the Central African Republic, a former French colony, until the new peacekeeping force can be deployed in full. How long that will take remains unclear, as does the question of how capable the troops will be of protecting civilians without abusing them.

Peacekeepers from neighboring Chad pulled out from the Central African Republic this month after some of them were accused of shooting civilians in a busy market in the capital, Bangui. Many of the roughly 5,000 African Union peacekeeping troops in the country now could be incorporated into the U.N. peacekeeping mission.

The resolution calls for 10,000 soldiers and nearly 2,000 police officers. Rights groups that have been pressing the United Nations to take a more assertive role in the crisis welcomed its passage.

Rare for a U.N. mission, due to start in September, the peacekeepers are additionally authorized to support law and order in the country, at a time when Central African Republic’s police and court system have basically collapsed. They are also supposed to monitor human rights abuses and help the national authorities arrest war criminals.

The Central African Republic is a signatory to the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, which has already opened an investigation into atrocities in the course of the conflict. “Justice is necessary to the process. Impunity led us to where we are now,” its foreign minister, Toussaint Kongo-Doudou, told reporters after the Security Council vote.

—Somini Sengupta, The New York Times

Minnesota lawmakers vote to raise base wage

Minnesota lawmakers voted to raise the minimum wage on Thursday, making it the fifth state to raise base wages this year with midterm elections approaching.

While an effort by President Barack Obama to increase the federal minimum wage has stalled in Congress, action has turned to the states. And in places like Minnesota, where Democrats have control of the state capital, the issue is seen as one that will appeal to voters in fall contests. Lawmakers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and West Virginia have approved minimum-wage increases this year.

In St. Paul, legislators decided to increase the wage to $9.50 an hour from $6.15 by 2016 for large employers. The state’s current rate is below the federal minimum wage and among the lowest in the country. The House approved the bill, 71-60. A day earlier, the Senate passed it, 35-31. Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, has said he will sign the measure Monday.

“When the minimum wage is so low, it’s really hard to work your way up that economic ladder,” state Rep. Erin Murphy, the House majority leader, said, advocating for the wage increase on the House floor Thursday. “You get stuck because you can’t make ends meet. You can’t make your way out.”

During a sharp debate that split along party lines, Republicans portrayed the wage increase as one more in a list of policies from the majority Democrats that have harmed the state’s economy in the last two years. The change is expected to affect about 350,000 Minnesota residents, state officials said. It raises wages in a gradual way over two years, and would allow increases for inflation after that. While Minnesota’s rate is currently below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, many workers now receive the federal base rate.

—Monica Davey, The New York Times