West snubs UN plea for action

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The Independent Online
IN RESPONSE to the catastrophic events in Rwanda, the United States is preparing a new humanitarian aid package - but there were no signs this weekend that other countries were willing to respond in any more direct manner to the appeal by the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, for the Security Council to take 'forceful action to restore law and order'.

The UN now estimates 250,000 refugees are streaming into neighbouring Tanzania in the 'largest and fastest exodus' the UN has ever seen, and Mr Boutros-Ghali has asked the Security Council to consider sending an extensive force to end the killings.

But neither the United States nor any of the other Western powers favours such action. They recall the political and military mess that resulted in intervention in Somalia, and they believe any UN effort to end the violence between the majority Hutu and minority Tutsi tribes in Rwanda could be even more disastrous.

Earlier this month Mr Boutros-Ghali gave the Security Council three options on its peace-keeping mission in Rwanda: send in a large force, leave a token force to distribute the humanitarian aid, or pull out altogether. Initially, the Clinton administration favoured a complete withdrawal, but was persuaded by its UN ambassador, Madeleine Albright, to back the token force. A contingent of 270 troops remains in the country.

Privately, Western diplomats say the idea of sending a larger force is simply unrealistic. Not even the non-aligned countries have been prepared to provide troops for such a risky mission. Mr Boutros- Ghali's report made the member states even more nervous. He told the Security Council that 'a new complication' is that both the Tutsi rebels and the Hutu government forces have grown suspicious of the impartiality of the UN peace- keeping mission and are refusing to co-operate.

In his letter, the Secretary- General added that there is 'strong evidence of preparations for further massacres of civilians and there are several large concentrations of civilians who fear for their lives but enjoy little effective protection. Massacres continue on a large scale in the countryside'.

UN officials here said they had received reports from neighbouring Burundi of massacres in the north of that country, suggesting the tribal fighting may be spreading into Burundi, which also has a long history of conflict between its own Hutus and Tutsis.

This weekened, the US has sent a State Department official from Tanzania to the Rwandan border to evaluate the situation. In Washington, officials are preparing a renewed humanitarian effort to cope with the flow of refugees - C-130 transport aircraft are ready to fly relief supplies into Tanzania. Whether the US offers direct aid depends on the report from the border, officials said.

The number of refugees was expected by the Red Cross to swell to half a million. The UN refugee agency in Geneva reported columns more than five miles long at the border with Tanzania. The agency said it had food and medical supplies, including blankets and tents, sufficient for 50,000.

Through their subdued response to the Secretary-General's appeal, the Western powers again face the charge of considering white lives - as in Bosnia - more precious than black. But the UN troops were sent to Rwanda as part of an effort by the former colonial power, Belgium, to resolve the crisis. Even if the Security Council had voted to enlarge the blue helmet force, the UN would not have been able to move fast enough to prevent the violence.