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France avoids Rwanda genocide row ‘for now’

PARIS, April 8 (AFP) – France will consider the implications of the row over its alleged complicity in the Rwandan genocide ten years ago once this week of commemoration is over, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said Thursday.

“We will examine the situation in depth, but because of this week of contemplation I have nothing to add at this stage,” Barnier told a news conference.

On Wednesday, France’s junior foreign affairs minister Renaud Muselier brought forward his departure from genocide commemorations in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, after President Paul Kagame accused France of complicity in the massacres of 1994.

“We heard what was said. Serious accusations, contrary to the truth, were made against France. Because we think this week is a week of contemplation and of commemoration and not one for controversy, we chose to withdraw in a dignified way,” he said.

“They (France) knowingly trained and armed the government soldiers and militias who were going to commit genocide and they knew they were going to commit genocide,” Kagame said at a ceremony at the country’s national stadium.

The comments marked a further degeneration in a diplomatic stand-off between Paris and the Kagame government, which has centred on claims that France trained the Hutu extremists who end up killing some 800,000 people between April and July 1994.

A book published last month by French journalist Patrick de Saint-Exupery alleged on the basis of interviews with French servicemen that “soldiers from our country trained, under orders, the killers in the Tutsi genocide.”

The atmosphere worsened last month when the Paris newspaper Le Monde published allegations that Kagame, then head of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), had ordered the missile attack on the aircraft of Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death sparked the massacres.

French government figures from the time such as former prime minister Alain Juppe have angrily denied prior French knowledge of the genocide.

Hubert Vedrine, who was a senior aide to Socialist president Francois Mitterrand from 1991 to 1995, said that French action had been aimed at averting the massacres that “everyone” feared, but admitted the policy had failed.

Speaking Thursday on Radio France Internationale, Vedrine said France had trained the mainly Hutu army to defend itself against attacks from Uganda – which backed the RPF – and that in return France demanded that Habyarimana’s government move to establish power-sharing with the Tutsis.

“The objective of this French policy – alas – clearly failed. But its aim was to stop a return to massacres, to try to get over this Hutu-Tutsi issue which is still not resolved today,” he said.

                                                                 Subject: French news