French 'invasion' of Rwanda under way: Security Council discusses backing the intervention as the rebels promise to resist it with 'all our means'

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The Independent Online
FRENCH troops have landed on the Rwandan border as an advance party to 'Operation Turquoise', according to a French military spokesman, and the Rwanda Patriotic Front says French forces are already inside the country.

French intervention, bitterly opposed by one of the warring parties will, it appears, go ahead with or without UN backing, though in Paris yesterday Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, was quoted as saying that the intervention must be authorised by the UN, end with the intervention of UN forces and not last more than a few weeks. French troops must be based in Zaire and not venture deep inside Rwanda, and operations must be only humanitarian, he added.

But in the capital, Kigali, where fighting continues, UN military observers from African countries told reporters that they had been threatened because of the French move and they have been told by their commanders to be ready for anything.

The UN Security Council was meeting yesterday to discuss a French draft resolution giving it a mandate to send 2,000 troops to Rwanda. Although many countries are deeply sceptical about the plan, only New Zealand is actively opposing it. Britain's Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said in New York yesterday that he supported the French intervention. The Francophone African countries are also behind France, with Senegal's President, Abdou Diouf, confirming he would send troops to join the French operation.

Yesterday the West European Union, the nine-nation European defence grouping, turned down the French request for outright endorsement but said it would offer 'co-ordination' and that some members would provide logistical support, but only if African states participated and the plan was approved by the UN.

A military spokesman in Paris confirmed yesterday that an advance team of French troops arrived at the airport in Goma, which lies on the border between Zaire and Rwanda, to prepare for the 1,000 French troops preparing to fly from Bangui in the Central African Republic.

The spokesman said: 'We have some 20 people at Goma airfield who arrived yesterday. They are acting as scouts to study the viability of itineraries and runways.'

In an attempt to prove France does not favour either side, the troops will probably move into Gisyeni, the town on the Rwanda side of the border opposite Goma which is a Hutu stronghold, and at the same time deploy in Cyangugu some 50 miles further south where there is a dwindling band of about 2,000 Tutsi refugees.

Rwanda Patriotic Front leaders yesterday refused to meet French representatives and denounced the French plan as an 'invasion'. Ben Rugangazi, of the RPF political bureau, said intervention would lead to more bloodshed. 'We have information they have already reached Rwanda,' he said. 'We are going to resist them for as long as we can, with all our means. We shall do all we can to resist this French invasion.'