Clinton wants African force to intervene in Rwanda: Washington rules out use of American troops to halt massacres as rebels 'close border' to fleeing refugees

IN AN effort to stop the mass killings in Rwanda, the United States is considering a plan to organise and pay for armed intervention by neighbouring African states. The Clinton administration has ruled out direct use of US forces and does not believe any Western state wants to become involved.

This leaves action by Rwanda's neighbours as the only practical alternative likely to stop the massacres or end the civil war.

The United Nations Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, has asked the Organisation of African Unity to draw up a plan for ending the crisis, which the UN could then endorse.

US officials appear to be floating the idea of African intervention, helped financially and logistically by the US, to see how it would be received. Officials told the New York Times that the plan was still at a preliminary stage but the alternative was to do nothing at all.

There is a precedent for regional intervention in Rwanda in the deployment of the Nigerian-led West African peace-keeping force to stop the civil war in Liberia. Rwanda's immediate neighbours - Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire - all have weak armies that could scarcely intervene unless supported with equipment and transport.

At the beginning of last month, when the UN Security Council voted to cut the UN force in Rwanda to token size, African members said they would prefer to have seen it reinforced. At the time none offered to send troops.

The Clinton administration is conscious it is suffering political damage because of its failure to achieve its ends in Bosnia, Somalia or Haiti. Officials in Washington feel that criticism is often unfair because the problems involved are intractable, and they do not want to become involved in Rwanda unless they can see some prospect of success.

GAHINI (Reuter) - An exodus of refugees fleeing to Tanzania from tribal slaughter in Rwanda dried up when advancing rebels occupied the frontier, a UN official said yesterday. A relaxed band of rebels lounged at the Rusomo border bridge, the only escape across the Kagera River from south-east Rwanda.

On the Tanzanian side, exhausted Rwandans, some with bloody feet bound in rags, slept on open ground or sheltered from rain under bushes. On the Rusomo bridge lay piles of machetes which Tanzanian soldiers guarding the border had ordered refugees to leave behind.

Most of the refugees who crossed at Rusomo belonged to the majority Hutu tribe and were fleeing in fear of mainly-Tutsi rebels of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, witnesses said.

Jacques Franquin, a UN High Commissioner for Refugees official, said from the north-west Tanzanian town of Mwanza that an estimated 250,000 people arrived in the 24 hours before RPF fighters reached Rusomo bridge at dusk on Friday.

'From the moment the RPF arrived they stopped coming, but it's dangerous to allege they have closed the border,' he said. 'Maybe we have some displaced people still inside Rwanda who want to leave but are scared of the RPF. There is no proof. Another theory is all those who wanted to leave have already gone.'

The RPF denied that it had prevented refugees from fleeing, and appealed to those who had crossed the border to come home.

'The RPF denies unfounded reports to the effect that it might be stopping people from fleeing and has closed the border on that side,' said rebel Radio Muhabura, monitored by the BBC.

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