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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Belgium's diplomatic storm with Congo
Tutsi refugees in eastern DRC
The charges arise from the mass killing of Tutsis
The Belgium Government is trying to defuse a diplomatic crisis with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after a Belgian court issued an international arrest warrant for Congo's foreign minister.

Belgian prosecutors want Abdoulaye Yerodia arrested for allegedly inciting hatred and mass killings of minority Tutsis.



This is not an unfriendly political gesture against Congo

Belgium Foreign Ministry

"This is not an unfriendly political gesture against Congo," a Belgian foreign ministry statement said.

"On the contrary, Belgium wishes to continue its constructive relations with Congo despite the judicial procedure against...Yerodia".

A 1993 Belgian law empowers prosecutors to pursue foreigners for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in their own countries.

The Congolese minister risks being detained if he leaves Congo, and could possibly be deported to Belgium.

Congo recalls envoy

Mr Yerodia's reported remarks were made shortly after rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda invaded the east of DR Congo in August 1998, when he headed the cabinet of President Laurent Kabila.


Abdoulaye Yerodia
Abdoulaye Yerodia: Accused by Belgium of inciting killings
At the time, Mr Yerodia reportedly issued a public appeal for the "eradication and the crushing of the Rwandan and Ugandan invaders," whom he described as "microbes, vermin and cockroaches".

Families of the victims said many Rwandan Tutsis and Congolese Tutsis - known as Banyamulenge - were burnt alive in the streets of Kinshasa.

Mr Yerodia has denied targeting any racial group.

Congo recalled its ambassador from Brussels last Saturday. It denounced Belgium for demonstrating "cynicism and duplicity in the face of a war of aggression imposed against the Congolese people".

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