Zaire Rebels Call Truce to Coax Refugees Home

From Associated Press

With the international community threatening to intervene, Zairian Tutsi rebels declared a cease-fire Monday in eastern Zaire and agreed to allow aid agencies to try to get Hutu refugees home to Burundi and Rwanda.

Fighting between Tutsi-led rebels and Zairian troops has forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee their U.N. camps, venturing deeper into Zaire and farther from the reach of aid workers.

The Hutu refugees followed their defeated army into exile in 1994 after Rwanda's former Hutu extremist government slaughtered more than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis.

The Hutus have refused to return, fearing reprisals for the genocide. In the last few weeks, the rebels have overrun some of the Hutu camps.

French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette urged European nations, the United States, Canada and the Organization of African Unity to meet immediately and "organize the possible means to temporarily secure" eastern Zaire to feed the refugees.

U.N. envoy Sergio Vierra de Mello arrived in Kigali to meet with Rwandan officials about the creation of a "humanitarian corridor" to get food to refugees and let them return home safely.

Regional foreign ministers met in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday to prepare for a summit of East and Central African leaders to tackle the crisis, which could destabilize the entire region.

However, an advisor to ailing Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko said Zaire would not take part in the summit today as long as Rwanda pretends that its army is not involved in the fighting alongside the Zairian Tutsi rebels. Mobutu, 66, has been in Switzerland since an operation in August.

The Paris daily Le Monde reported that Mobutu suffers from prostate cancer that has spread to his bones.

Late Monday, he flew to France.

The Zairian government has said that one of the reasons the Rwandan army attacked eastern Zaire was to clear the border area of Hutu refugees, among whom are former government soldiers who continue to launch cross-border attacks on Rwanda.

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