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Tuesday, April 21, 1998 Published at 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK

World: Africa

French ex-PM defends actions in Rwanda
image: [ France supplied significant military aid to Rwanda's Hutu leaders ]
France supplied significant military aid to Rwanda's Hutu leaders

Pierre Haski from Liberation newspaper: "MP's have played into Balladur's hands" (2'10")
The former prime minister of France, Edouard Balladur, has fiercely defended his government's actions during the genocide in Rwanda.

He told a parliamentary inquiry that he objected to what he called, biased and hateful allegations against France. He said France had been the only country to intervene in Rwanda to keep the horror in check.

[ image: Balladur: objected to
Balladur: objected to "hateful!" allegations
The MPs are investigating French military support for the Hutu-led government that is accused of killing up to a million Rwandans in l994.

Appearing with the former premier were his foreign minister and successor Alain Juppé, ex-defence minister Francois Leotard, and the former co-operation minister Michel Roussin. Mr Juppé said that the French military operation saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

At least 50 French politicians and military officers are expected to testify during the week.

[ image: Juppe: French operation saved lives]
Juppe: French operation saved lives
The inquiry was set up earlier this year following newspaper allegations about the extent of French military support for the Hutu-led regime accused of killing up to a million Rwandans in l994.

The BBC Paris correspondent says no one is suggesting France had a role in the actual genocide. The inquiry was set up to determine the events leading up to it.

From 1990, the government in Paris was supplying large amounts of military aid and advice to Rwanda's Hutu-led government.

This, it is alleged, continued after the Rwandan army started training the Hutu militias, who were to carry out the massacres, and quite possibly even after the killings were actually underway in April 1994.

The BBC Paris correspondent says the underlying allegation is that successive French governments were so obsessed with maintaining influence in Africa that they overlooked the excesses of a client state.


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