Vice President Al Gore met here Tuesday with U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the head of the Organization of African Unity, South African President Nelson Mandela and other African leaders in a search for ways to invigorate stalled international efforts to aid civilians in strife-racked Rwanda.
Mandela, speaking at a brief news conference after meeting with Gore, appeared open to the possibility of an international force to restore order in Rwanda--a move that African leaders have opposed in the past.
U.S. officials cautioned later that they do not believe Mandela is prepared to fully endorse the idea of an international force--something the Clinton Administration has proposed in the past. But even his willingness to consider such a move could be significant, officials said, because of his influence with other governments on the continent.
In an informal report Tuesday to the Security Council, the U.N. staff recommended consideration of a force of at least 5,500 soldiers, saying "it is imperative that a further deterioration of this catastrophic situation is prevented and that the basic humanitarian needs of the huge numbers of Rwandese civilians who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the fighting be addressed."
The diplomatic efforts came as U.N. officials reported continued heavy fighting around the Rwandan capital of Kigali and advances by soldiers of the Tutsi rebel movement that has been fighting against a Rwandan government dominated by the Hutu tribe.
The fighting "does not appear to be slowing down," Gore told reporters after meeting with Boutros-Ghali, OAU chief Salim Salim and Ali Hassan Mwinyi, the president of Tanzania, where hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled to escape the Rwandan killing.
"Obviously, it is a horrible tragedy that calls out for a response," Gore said.
In the meeting, Gore said, he proposed "several new ideas," but he declined to outline them, saying "the discussion is unfortunately at a delicate stage which does not make it easy to talk publicly about the ideas that we have advanced."
"None of these are earth-shattering or in the nature of an ultimate solution," he conceded.
Some form of international force to restore order has been an idea suggested by U.S. officials in the past. But African leaders have resisted, in part because of concerns over violating the sovereignty of another African state, however devastated, and in part too because the Administration has made it clear it would supply logistic aid and money but expects the Africans to supply the troops.
But Mandela told reporters "if a force is there merely to maintain law and order and to save lives, that is something that is absolutely necessary." He cautioned, however, that he would "not feel comfortable" discussing details of any proposal until after he had consulted with other African leaders.