PARIS — FRANCE will begin pulling troops out of Rwanda at the end of July, Defense Minister Francois Leotard said July 12, increasing pressure on the United Nations to assume the operation.
The Rwandan Patriotic Front, the minority-backed rebel movement that captured the capital earlier in July, welcomed a gradual French withdrawal from western Rwanda but warned Paris against protecting officials accused of plotting massacres in which 200,000 to 500,000 people are believed to have died.
France initially said it planned to end its operation by the end of July, but most other nations have balked at assuming an effort criticized by both the Rwandan rebels and government. Paris is taking increasing heat from politicians in and outside the conservative coalition for the involvement.
Prime Minister Edouard Balladur told the UN on July 11 that his country's troops could not cope with the huge crisis alone. UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said less than half of the 5,500-member force the UN plans to deploy would be ready by late July. So far only 200 Senegalese troops have joined the French. Almost 1 million refugees have flooded into the French zone, requiring 500 tons of food a day, Mr. Balladur said.