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Rep. of Congo President Won’t Pardon

January 2, 1998

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo (AP) _ Gen. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who toppled the Republic of Congo’s president after a four-month civil war, has refused to pardon his predecessor.

``Those of my compatriots who put the nation into peril assuredly do not merit the pardon of our people,″ Sassou-Nguesso said in a New Year’s Eve address on national radio.

Instead, he said that former President Pascale Lissouba and other top officials who fled into exile should return to Republic of Congo for trial.

``They should be returned to justice,″ said Sassou-Nguesso, who was installed as president after Lissouba fled.

A source closed to Sassou-Nguesso, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the government was preparing to press charges of genocide against Lissouba and former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas.

Sassou-Nguesso blamed the civil war on Lissouba, saying his ``rage of killing″ lead to up to 10,000 deaths over the four months. He also blamed earlier fighting over the years on Lissouba, fighting that killed another 5,000 people.

In October, Lissouba fled to the West African country of Burkina Faso as his government collapsed around him, but later moved to Paris. Kolelas is living in Ivory Coast.

Sassou-Nguesso ruled over a one-party Marxist state in Republic of Congo from 1979 to 1991, when public demands for democratic reforms and anger over the country’s economic problems forced him out. He lost the country’s first multiparty election to Lissouba in 1992.

The civil war ended as Sassou-Nguesso’s private ``Cobra″ militia _ backed by Angolan troops and tanks _ seized the capital and the country’s second-largest city in mid-October.

The Republic of Congo is located in western Africa and borders on the much larger nation of Congo.

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