- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2001

NEW YORK Members of the U.N. Security Council yesterday urged Rwandan President Paul Kagame to withdraw his troops from Congo.
But Mr. Kagame, who has been in the United States since he met with U.S. officials in Washington last week, rebuffed his critics by demanding help in cutting off Rwandan rebels who have taken refuge in Congo's forests.
"We spend so much talking about invited, non-invited [soldiers], but the agreement signed by everybody says 'all forces must go,' " said Mr. Kagame, who sat through three hours of Security Council speeches chastising his government for deploying soldiers into Congo.
Council members, who have been watching the Great Lakes region of central Africa implode into fitful bloodshed since the mid-1990s, repeatedly urged Mr. Kagame to take a verifiable step toward peace.
In often stark language, they also warned him to rein in human rights abuses in his own country and in eastern Congo.
"We do not believe that Rwanda can secure its long-term security interests via a policy of military opposition to the government of the [Congo]," said acting U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham.
"Likewise, we do not believe that the withdrawal of foreign forces from the [Congo] can be accomplished through military means," he said.
The Security Council last year authorized a peacekeeping mission to Congo in which 500 military observers would be protected by some 5,000 troops.
Because the country is too large to patrol, and because an absence of roads makes a traditional deployment nearly impossible, the observers were to be clustered into four strategic locations.
So far, only 200 peacekeepers have been dispatched, most of them in the capital, Kinshasa.
This was the council's second recent meeting on the Great Lakes region. Joseph Kabila, son and successor of assassinated Congolese President Laurent Kabila, spoke to the body Friday.
Mr. Kagame and several diplomats have praised the younger Mr. Kabila, saying he appears to be more flexible than his father in negotiations that will help implement the 1999 cease-fire agreement that was signed in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.
That accord was signed by leaders of six nations and three rebel groups, but it has been repeatedly violated by nearly all parties.
Mr. Kagame indicated he might withdraw his troops from the diamond-rich region if the U.N. monitors are fully deployed there.
"We are ready to withdraw from it as long as there are monitors that come on the ground, as long as they can come and occupy this place," he said.

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