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Monday, May 4, 1998 Published at 20:38 GMT


Despatches

Annan defends record on Rwanda

Annan: says the accusations are nothing new

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has denied having any regrets about his handling of the events leading up to the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Mr Annan was then head of the UN's peacekeeping department and has been accused by an article in the New Yorker magazine of failing to act on warnings he received from the UN commander in Rwanda. The allegations, which have been made before, have resurfaced just as Mr Annan is about to visit the UN's War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha set up to prosecute those guilty of genocide. Our UN correspondent Rob Watson is travelling with the Secretary- General in Africa and sent us this report from Nairobi:

Specifically, the article accuses Mr Annan of failing to act on a message sent from the UN commander in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, in the months leading up to the genocide. In the message, General Dallaire asked for permission to search Hutu militias for weapons because of intelligence reports suggesting an impending massacre of the Tutsis.

Responding to questions about the allegations, Mr Annan insisted it was an old story which was being rehashed. He said the fundamental failure over Rwanda was not a shortage of information provided by the UN about the possibility of a genocide but rather the lack of political will on the part of the UN's Member States to provide the troops to stop it.

The allegations have resurfaced just as Mr Annan is preparing to visit the UN's War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. Set up three years ago, the tribunal has yet to convict anyone and has until recently been plagued by inept administration.

But the UN hopes last week's guilty plea from the former Rwandan Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda, marks a turning-point for the tribunal and that information he might provide will finally reveal who was to blame for the deaths of so many.



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