THE United Nations Security Council gave France approval last night to rush troops to Rwanda to help stop the carnage which has taken up to 500,000 lives in three months of civil war.
However, the vote fell short of a ringing endorsement of French action. Ten members of the 15-strong council, including Britain, the United States and Russia, voted in favour of the emergency mission, which is designed as an interim measure to try to end the killing before the main UN force of 5,000 African troops arrives in the next four weeks. But five countries abstained, including China, New Zealand, Pakistan, Nigeria and Brazil. The less than unanimous vote - one of the lowest for a UN-authorised peace-keeping venture - reflected strong reservations about the outcome of the mission, given the opposition from the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, and concern that the French intervention might complicate the task of the main UN force.
Some countries fear a replay of the events in Somalia, where warring factions humiliated US troops before UN troops took over peacekeeping duties. New Zealand's ambassador, Colin Keating, one of the main opponents of France's initiative, told the council: 'Somalia has shown us that even where we have the best of humanitarian intentions, if we do not employ the right means tragedy can result.'
After the vote, the French Defence Minister, Francois Leotard, said the military operation will start today.
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