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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
France to help genocide inquiry
A survivor prays at a mass grave
Some 800,000 people were killed in 100 days
France says it will co-operate with an inquiry in Rwanda into allegations that French forces were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

A commission in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, has started hearing witnesses in public this week on the issue.

A French defence ministry spokesman told the BBC that the testimony of two army officers would be made available.

France has denied playing any role in the 100-day frenzy of killing in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.

The panel, whose hearings are being broadcast live on local radio, is hearing from 25 survivors of the genocide, who claim to have witnessed French involvement.

After the testimonies, the Rwandan panel will rule on whether to file a suit at the International Court of Justice.

'No evidence'

"Two officers have been requested to testify by Rwandan officials and as we do with the international courts we shall organise this," Jean Francois Bureau, spokesman for French defence minister, told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

French soldiers were deployed in parts of Rwanda in the final weeks of the genocide under a United Nations mandate to set up a protected zone.

Rwanda says the soldiers allowed Hutu extremists to enter Tutsi camps.

But Mr Bureau says there is no evidence to support these accusations.

The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in Kigali says that it is also alleged that French soldiers provided escape routes to militia escaping to the Democratic Republic of Congo after the massacres.

Meanwhile, in France a military tribunal is currently investigating claims by six Rwandans who filed a case accusing French troops of facilitating the massacres.

Separately, some of Rwanda's most high-profile genocide cases have already been tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in the Tanzanian town of Arusha.

Twenty-five ringleaders have been convicted since 1997, but the Rwandan government has expressed frustration at the slow legal process.




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