Rwanda rebels bow to appeal for ceasefire: Military commander issues statement giving assurance of safety to stem flight by frightened Hutus

AFTER an astounding three months' offensive in which their forces have captured all of Rwanda except for some border areas still held by the remnants of the extremist Hutu government army, it appeared yesterday that the rebel Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) had bowed to international appeals to stop its advance.

At the United Nations in New York, the RPF said a new broad-based government would be established on Monday in Kigali, the capital. RPF spokesman Claude Dusaidi said yesterday: 'I wish to announce to the press that a government will be sworn in in Kigali on the 18th of July . . . at noon.'

In Paris meanwhile, France confirmed that senior officials of Rwanda's rump government had fled to its safe zone in the country and warned the fugitive officials against political or military activities inside the civilian haven.

'Given the verified presence of members of the rump government inside the safe zone, the French authorities warn that France will not tolerate any political or military activity inside that zone, whose purpose is strictly humanitarian,' a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in a statement.

Some members of the Hutu government are likely to be wanted by a UN war crimes tribunal on charges of organising the systematic genocide of the Tutsi minority. 'The mandate we have from the UN does not include the search for those responsible for the genocide. We have information (on massacres) and we are ready to send this to the UN but that's not our mandate,' a French official had said.

Also yesterday, the United States cut diplomatic ties with Rwanda's Hutu government, blamed by President Clinton for supporting 'genocidal massacre'.

The Embassy of Rwanda was ordered closed and its personnel were ordered to leave the US within five working days. Announcing the break with the Hutu government, Mr Clinton said: 'The United States cannot allow representatives of a regime that supports genocidal massacre to remain on our soil.'

After a long meeting with the RPF's Major-General Paul Kagame, the United Nations special envoy for Rwanda, Shahayar Kahn, told reporters in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, that the RPF had agreed to declare a unilateral ceasefire.

'All that remains to be done is for him (Kagame) to inform us of the hour the ceasefire comes into effect,' Mr Kahn said. 'He has a line he has in mind and he will stop there and will not advance all the way to Gisenyi,' he added, referring to the last remaining stronghold of the rump Hutu government.

The ceasefire was urgently requested by the UN Security Council on Thursday night to help stop the exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighbouring Zaire. At least 500,000 people, mainly frightened Hutu civilians, have fled the RFP advance in north-western Rwanda and have crossed the frontier into Zaire, overwhelming international aid agencies which have been predicting a humanitarian catastrophe if the flood does not stop.

In order to stem the tide of fleeing refugees, General Kagame issued a statement yesterday in which he tried to reassure people that there was no reason to flee.

(Photograph omitted)

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