PARIS - France maintains a presence in the Central African Republic to protect its interests and French citizens, not the government of President Francois Bozize, French President Francois Hollande said on Thursday.
"If we have a presence, it's not to protect a regime, it's to protect our nationals and our interests and in no way to intervene in the internal business of a country, in this case the Central African Republic," Hollande said.
"Those days are over," Hollande added, speaking on the sidelines of a visit to a wholesale food market outside Paris.
Hollande ordered French troops stationed in the country on Wednesday to reinforce security at France's embassy in Bangui after protestors threw rocks at the building and some managed to enter the compound before being repulsed.
France, the former colonial power which has repeatedly intervened in CAR with military force, has 250 soldiers in its land-locked former colony based at Bangui's airport as port of an existing peace-keeping mission.
Some 1,200 French nationals live in CAR, mostly in the capital, according to the French foreign ministry.