West steps up pressure on Mobutu

KINSHASA (AP) - Zairean presidential guards fought pockets of rebel troops early yesterday and Belgium intervened in a bid to force President Mobutu Sese Seko to surrender power, grounding a planeload full of his money.

The United States, France and Belgium sent a joint message to President Mobutu saying they 'forcefully insist' that Zaire's dictator of 27 years surrender his powers to his arch rival, the Prime Minister, Etienne Tshisekedi.

President Mobutu 'has the blood of more than 300 people on his hands', said the Belgian Foreign Minister, Willy Claes, referring to the victims of riots that erupted last Thursday when soldiers were paid with new bank notes that shopkeepers refused to accept. Mr Tshisekedi's government said at least 1,000 people had died during the unrest, mainly regular troops killed in attacks by presidential guards who accused them of supporting President Mobutu's opponents. More than 1,500 foreigners have been evacuated.

Early yesterday, presidential guards at the state broadcasting centre repulsed an attack by rebel soldiers, hours after fighting at the airport killed 45 troops, a European security source said.