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UN Reopens Probe of Rwanda Arms Buy

April 9, 1998

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Fearing that continued violence in Rwanda could spark another genocide, the Security Council voted Thursday to reopen an investigation into illegal arms sales to the Central African country.

The council unanimously agreed to reactivate the International Commission of Inquiry, and called on Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint its members.

In its resolution, the council said it recognized ``the need for a renewed investigation of the illegal flow of arms to Rwanda, which is fueling violence and could lead to further acts of genocide.″

Meanwhile, new violence was reported in Rwanda on Thursday.

About 100 attackers _ thought to be Hutu rebels _ killed 28 people and wounded 36 in a refugee camp in the northwestern Ruhengeri region, the Rwandan News Agency said.

Government soldiers intervened, killing 20 rebels, the news agency said.

The United Nations imposed an arms embargo on Rwanda in May 1994 following the start of the Hutu-sponsored genocide that killed an estimated 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The U.N. commission was established in September 1995 to look into violations of the embargo that occurred after the genocide had ended and Tutsis had overthrown the Hutu-led government in July 1994.

The commission submitted its report to the council in January, saying it had compiled ``ample and convincing evidence″ to support allegations of violations but adding that it needed more time to complete it work.

In the resolution, the council noted that violence in October 1996 in neighboring Congo, formerly Zaire, caused ``the suspension of effective follow-up″ to the investigation.

The move ``is a critical first step towards halting the violence in the Great Lakes region,″ said Nancy Soderberg, political affairs ambassador for the United States, which spearheaded the resolution and has pledged $100,000 to get the commission going again.

Britain has allocated $160,000, Germany $50,000 and Japan $40,000.

``The illegal flow of small arms and light weapons is a fierce impediment to the lasting resolution of conflicts,″ Germany’s acting U.N. representative, Gerhard Henze, told the council.

The issue of the arming of Rwandan Hutus intensified recently with a French parliamentary inquiry into allegations that France armed and supported Rwanda’s Hutu-led regime during the genocide.

The French have asked for testimony from Annan, who led U.N. peacekeeping efforts at the time. Annan hasn’t received the request and could not comment, spokesman Yasuhiro Ueki said Wednesday.

It seemed unlikely that Annan would testify in person. Citing diplomatic immunity, the United Nations refused to allow the commander of peacekeeping troops in Rwanda to appear before a similar legislative inquiry in Belgium.

Violence has resumed in Rwanda since more than 1 million Hutu refugees returned in November 1996 from 2 1/2 years in exile in neighboring Congo.

Authorities say returning former soldiers and militiamen _ many of whom were responsible for the genocide _ have mingled with civilians and are bent on destabilizing the country.

A senior official in Congo said Thursday the far northeastern corner of his country is full of Rwandan Hutu and Congolese rebels who are a serious security threat.

The Hutus have been using northeastern Congo as a base from which to launch attacks into Rwanda.

Update hourly