America stalls UN's Rwanda rescue

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FEARING 'another Somalia', the United States yesterday again stalled efforts by the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to send an all-African force of 5,500 troops to Rwanda to protect civilians displaced by the country's civil war.

Instead, the US proposed increasing the token force of fewer than 500 with an extra 150 observers, and bringing a Ugandan battalion already in Rwanda up to full strength.

After 'taking the heat', as a US spokesman put it, from other UN Security Council members, the US then agreed to authorise the 5,500 troops but called on the Secretary-General to come back within two weeks for full council approval of his plan. When Mr Boutros-Ghali has gathered his volunteer African force, the US said it would 'see if there is a semblance of reality' in what he proposed the force should try to accomplish before giving its approval to the mission.

Mr Boutros-Ghali has been pressing for reinforcements to secure the airport in the capital, Kigali, and safe areas for refugees from the fighting between the mainly Hutu government forces and the rebel Tutsis, in which many thousands of civilians have been massacred. But the US said the plan risked 'another Somalia' with high casualties, no political result and the possibility of jeopardising future peace-keeping operations.

The US has agreed to help in moving troops and relief supplies to the Rwandan border with Tanzania, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have gathered.

Some Western diplomats feared that US reticence, and the delay in any new Security Council mandate for Rwanda, would make it harder to persuade African countries to sign up to the new force. Nigeria and Ghana have said they are ready to supply troops, and four other nations - Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Senegal and Zambia - have shown interest. But now they would be unwilling to commit themselves without a new mandate, the diplomats said.

When fighting started four weeks ago, the Security Council cut the 2,500-member UN peace-keeping force to fewer than 500.

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