Eurofile: Red faces in France as Rwanda gets arms

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The Independent Online
THE FRENCH government is deeply embarrassed by reports of sanctions-busting through the town of Goma, on the Zaire-Rwandan border, which is the rear base of the French humanitarian force for Rwanda. Lethal weapons, including anti-tank and fragmentation grenades, were recently shipped there for the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government, in violation of the United Nations Security Council arms embargo.

The weapons were flown from the Seychelles to Goma on 16 and 18 June. From there it is a mere stone's throw to Gisenyi, the temporary seat of the Rwandan interim government which has conspired in the massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians in that country's civil war.

According to the Indian Ocean Newsletter based in Paris, the arms transaction was negotiated by a Zairean and a South African businessman and concluded in Paris some time ago. News of the sale was broken by the Seychellois opposition weekly paper, Regar. The weapons were originally meant to go to Somalia but were confiscated in the Seychelles last year.

THE dollars 800m ( pounds 512m) which Western nations agreed to pay Ukraine to close down the Chernobyl nuclear plant and replace it with more Soviet-designed reactors is not enough, according to a US government report, and could lead to further dangers. France and Germany have been leading the campaign to have Chernobyl shut down and helped to persuade the G7 group of nations in Naples last week to assist Ukraine. In June the European Union agreed to pay dollars 600m and the G7 increased this amount by dollars 200m, most of it from Europe.

Two Soviet-era gas-graphite reactors are still working at Chernobyl, producing 4 per cent of Ukraine's electricity. The reactor that blew up in 1986 is covered in a concrete sarcophagus and a fourth has been closed since a fire in 1991. Ukraine wants to restart it, against the advice of the International Atomic Energy Agency .

A report by the US Department of Energy claims that much more may be required to shut the Chernobyl plant than the G7 is willing to pay. Simply closing Chernobyl will in itself cost some dollars 780m - without allowing for bringing the other three reactors up to Western safety standards.

THE appointment of Jacques Santer as president of the European Commission means a change of leader in Luxembourg, where Mr Santer is Prime Minister and head of government. Tipped to succeed him is Jean-Claude Juncker, the Finance Minister. The youthful Mr Juncker, 39, is head of the centre-right Social Christians, Mr Santer's party, which will continue in government.

It also means the departure from Brussels of Rene Steichen, the Agriculture Commissioner, who has been Luxembourg's Commissioner since 1992. There will be a scramble for his job in the new Commission: the farm post is much-sought by countries for whom agricultural spending is of crucial political and economic importance.

TWO Swedish journalists researching articles on life along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic (the last real frontier within the EU), got more than they bargained for last week when they made an illegal crossing of the border.

The journalists, from a leading daily, crossed into the North across a bridge where the British army had placed concrete bollards to stop unauthorised traffic. As they reached the Northern side, three soldiers and an RUC officer emerged with weapons drawn an ordered them to freeze. After their press cards had been checked, the writer and photographer were ordered back to the Republic. Their Sinn Fein escort was detained.

Then back in the Republic, while waiting by their car, two British soldiers pointed their rifles at the journalists from across the bridge, causing them to flee. Their Sinn Fein escort was not so lucky. While being taken to Belfast for questioning, the unmarked police car in which he was travelling was attacked by the IRA. Two policemen received gunshot wounds and the Sinn Fein man had to have a finger amputated after being shot.