America hampers dispatch of UN troops for Rwanda: The Boutros-Ghali plan for a 5,500-strong rescue mission runs into strong opposition from the US

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THERE WAS no word yesterday from the United Nations secretariat as to when it might produce the 5,500 troops the Security Council finally authorised during a marathon session to try to end the violence in Rwanda. All Rwanda can expect immediately is 500 extra troops to secure the airport in Kigali, the capital, and 150 observers to assess what the troops might do, if they get there.

This was the gloomy outcome for Rwandans displaced by the fighting as the United States, in an effort to implement its new, cautious policy of UN peace-keeping, delayed Boutros Boutros-Ghali's grand plan for a rescue mission. Opposing the plan because they feared 'another Somalia', the US fought a mostly lone battle in the Security Council, trying to scale down the Secretary-General's effort. It is far from clear where that leaves Mr Boutros-Ghali's plan, or where it leaves US policy, which was being made up as the closed council meeting dragged on.

The US ambassador, Madeleine Albright, used her cellular telephone to discuss the next move with Washington while her deputy took the flak at the meeting, as one frustrated council member after another criticised the US for foot-dragging and, even worse, for possibly jeopardising the whole mission. France, Spain and New Zealand were among those who expressed their displeasure.

Afterwards several diplomats wondered how the US had got itself into a position of having to make up policy at the last minute. The Rwandan crisis has been escalating for weeks and the Security Council negotiations have been going on for several days.

The United States all but agreed last Friday to go ahead with approval of Mr Boutros-Ghali's plan to send in the 5,500 troops to reinforce the tiny garrison of fewer than 500, but Washington wanted certain conditions. Before trying to make secure areas around Kigali, which Mr Boutros-Ghali had called for, the US suggested the creation of safe areas on the border with Tanzania, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have gathered. Only after this was complete should troops venture towards the capital, the US argued. Otherwise, the UN forces were likely to take high casualties and not make any political headway.

But when the Security Council session opened, the US surprised all other 14 members by trying an even tougher tack. It now wanted a two-phase operation. First the securing of the airport by the Ghanaians and the introduction of the 150 observers. Then, two weeks later, the US wanted a report from the Secretary-General on the military situation to include how many troops he had been able to muster for the all-African force, and the views of the warring parties on the UN force. The US also wanted a second vote of approval in the council before the troops were dispatched.

The other members objected to this formula because, as a rule, UN members states will not volunteer troops unless there is a definite Security Council mandate. 'It was a chicken and egg situation,' said one diplomat. In addition, only a handful of African nations, among them Tanzania and Senegal, have indicated they are willing to join the 5,500 force. Some members argued they would be put off by the disarray in the council.

As the evning progressed, the US backed down, but not all the way. It dropped the idea of a second council resolution, and of the two-week delay, and agreed to authorise the Secretary-General to find the troops as soon as possible. This was passed by the council.

However, the US remained steadfast on its demands for some kind of review of the Secretary- General's plans. In keeping with the new Presidential Directive 25, the US is still seeking three criteria: the consent of the warring parties to the introduction of the 5,500, the security of Kigali airport and the availability of troops and funds.

The key phrase in yesterday's resolution authorising the 5,500 is a clause that says the Secretary- General's report will be followed by a review, or action 'as required' by the council. In other words, the council retains leeway to approve or disapprove Mr Boutros-Ghali's final plan.

BRUSSELS - Arsonists gutted a Red Cross refugee centre in Mons, South-west Belgium, that had been due to shelter Rwandan children, Reuter reports. The blaze occurred on Monday night.

US shame in Africa, page 16