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PEACEKEEPERS CONSIDERED FOR ZAIRE.

Byline: James C. McKinley Jr. New York Times

With a million Hutu refugees engulfed in a growing civil war in eastern Zaire, U.N. officials, relief workers and diplomats were scrambling Sunday to find some way to intervene in the conflict and restore the flow of aid.

But even as calls for an international rescue operation grew, the situation inside Zaire's eastern state of Kivu remained murky and there were no obvious solutions to the crisis short of a military intervention, U.N. officials said.

To begin with, it was still unclear Sunday who commanded the rebel force that captured the Zairian border town of Goma on Saturday morning, prompting the evacuation of aid workers and severing the refugees from the outside world. Nor was it known where the retreating Zairian army was or if the fighting was continuing.

Though witnesses said that Rwandan troops took part in the battle for Goma - a headquarters for the international relief operations - Rwanda continued to deny that its soldiers had crossed the border or had taken Zairian territory. Those assertions were impossible to verify since Rwandan troops sealed the border this morning and would not let journalists cross.

``We have no interest in going to Zaire,'' said Maj. Emmanuel Ndahiro, a spokesman for the Rwandan Ministry of Defense. ``Our forces are limited to our side of the border.''

Ndahiro acknowledged that Rwanda's army had shelled Goma on Saturday in retaliation for Zaire's mortar attacks earlier that day, but he said it did not invade Zaire. He also denied his government was covertly supporting the rebels. He said he did not even know who commanded the rebel force.

``I actually don't know who is in charge,'' he said.

Most of the proposals being floated in Western capitals for aiding the refugees concern sending in an international peacekeeping force that would provide a safe passageway for people to march back to Rwanda, diplomats said. Food aid would be used to encourage the refugees to return, rather than to fuel perpetual camps.

``People are talking about some kind of intervention that would allow the peaceful return of the refugees to Rwanda.'' said a diplomat in Kigali, speaking on the condition of anonymity. ``The things I have heard is that some kind of international force would create a safe corridor.''

In Geneva, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Sadako Ogata, called Sunday for an outside force to set up ``emergency lifelines'' to the refugees, zones through which food and medicine could pass to refugees or refugees could return to Rwanda.

``We must open humanitarian corridors to enable refugees to return in safety to Rwanda and Burundi,'' she said in a statement. ``Unless we reach the refugees soon, many women and children, the elderly, the sick and the wounded are going to die.''
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Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 4, 1996
Words:466
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