Aid to Rwandan civilians discussed


PRETORIA, South Africa -- Vice President Al Gore, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the head of the Organization of African Unity, South African President Nelson Mandela and other African leaders have met to discuss ways to invigorate stalled international efforts to aid civilians in strife-racked Rwanda.

Mr. Mandela, speaking at a brief news conference yesterday after meeting with Mr. Gore, appeared willing to discuss the possibility of an international force to restore order in Rwanda -- a move that African leaders have opposed in the past.

In an informal report yesterday to the Security Council, the U.N. staff recommended consideration of a force of at least 5,500 soldiers, saying "it is imperative that a further deterioration of this catastrophic situation is prevented and that the basic humanitarian needs of the huge numbers of Rwandese civilians who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the fighting be addressed."

The diplomatic efforts came as U.N. officials reported continued heavy fighting around the Rwandan capital of Kigali and advances by soldiers of the Tutsi rebel movement that has been fighting against a Rwandan government dominated by the Hutu tribe.

The fighting "does not appear to be slowing down," Mr. Gore told reporters after meeting with Mr. Boutros-Ghali, Organization of African Unity leader Salim Salim and Hassan Ali Mwinyi, the president of Tanzania, where hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to escape the Rwandan killing.

"Obviously, it is a horrible tragedy that calls out for a response," Mr. Gore said.

Mr. Mandela told reporters that "if a force is there merely to maintain law and order and to save lives, that is something that is absolutely necessary." He cautioned, however, that he would "not feel comfortable" discussing details of any proposal until after he had consulted with other African leaders.

Also yesterday, the U.S. military began flying relief supplies to refugees in Tanzania and Burundi, sending 15 C-141 cargo planes to carry food, medicine and blankets to refugee camps.

Further flights may take place, U.S. officials said.

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