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By Emmanuel Braun BANGUI (Reuters) - Gunfire echoed through the capital of Central African Republic on Thursday in the heaviest clashes there for months, hours before the U.N. was expected to authorise a French mission to curb escalating Muslim-Christian sectarian violence. Former rebels controlling Bangui said they had come under attack from local militia and fighters loyal to ousted president Francois Bozize. Mindful of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, when hundreds of thousands were killed as the world looked on, the United States and other Western powers are lobbying for international action to prevent the anarchy in Central African Republic leading to major atrocities against the civilian population. "There has been gunfire all over town," Amy Martin, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Bangui, told Reuters.