Spanish PM changes plans, will not meet Rwandan president

15th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has decided not to go ahead with a meeting on Friday in Madrid with Rwandan President Paul Kagame which had been contested by charities, a government spokesman said.

Zapatero and Kagame, who is targeted in a Spanish probe into the 1994 genocide, had been scheduled to meet Friday, during a the first meeting of a group set up last month by the United Nations to advance the fight against poverty.

The meeting, which was due to be held at Moncloa palace, the seat of the Spanish government, will instead be held at a downtown Madrid hotel and Spain will be represented by Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, the spokesman said.

Zapatero will meet with UN chief Ban Ki-moon separately, he added.

Last month the UN chief named Zapatero and Kagame as the co-chairs of the advocacy group pushing for progress on the Millennium Development Goals that set the aim of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

Earlier on Thursday the Coordinating Committee for Development NGOs in Spain (CONGDE) said in a statement that the UN's choice of Kagame for the post was "questionable."

It criticised "Zapatero's passivity for accepting without objection to work beside someone accused of genocide".

Asked about the statement, the government spokesman said only that the decision to move the meeting to a hotel was taken on Thursday and the the government felt that Moratinos' presence at the meeting was "sufficient".

In 2008 Spain's High Court announced its intention to prosecute 40 Rwandan army officers for genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism related to events that took place between 1994 and 2000, including under the Kagame's rule.

Kagame's then rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front in July 1994 put an end to the 100-day slaughter of at least 800,000 people, mostly from his Tutsi minority, by Hutu extremist militias and government troops.

But the Spanish judiciary accuses Kagame of fomenting the ethnic clashes in a bid to seize power. The Rwandan officers are accused, among other things, of murdering missionaries and Spanish expatriates who were allegedly witnesses to massacres.

Under Spanish law, a court can prosecute human rights crimes even if the alleged offences took place abroad.

But Kagame is immune from prosecution because of his status as head of state. His government has formally rejected the judge's accusations.

Others in the so-called MDG Advocacy Group, named after the Millennium Development Goals, include Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, CNN founder Ted Turner and Jeffrey Sachs of The Earth Institute and Columbia University.

© 2010 AFP

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