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U.S. Endorses French Plan to Send Troops on Rwanda Mission

By Julia Preston
The Washington Post

The United States Monday strongly supported a French proposal to send at least 1,000 troops to help protect civilians trapped in Rwanda's tribal war, while U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali gave a more guarded endorsement that reflected broad uneasiness about the plan.

The mixed reaction to President Francois Mitterrand's initiative demonstrated the dilemma facing international policy-makers, who are left with France as the only major power willing to send an intervention force to Rwanda, despite its colonial heritage in Africa and more recent involvement in Rwanda itself.

The United States, by making the Rwanda crisis the first test of its new, more cautious approach to multilateral peacekeeping, stalled any momentum to raise a U.N.-mandated force. First, U.S. officials proposed that peacekeepers be sent only to border areas outside the country; then, they refused to back full deployment of a proposed force of 5,500 troops until that number had been fully committed by member nations. Moreover, they negotiated for weeks to make the financially strapped world body pay $10 million for 50 U.S. armored personnel carriers that Washington had pledged to the Rwanda operation.

Now, officials here say, the only apparent alternative for prompt international action is to follow the lead of France, whose image of rescuer has been tainted by its recent backing of a Hutu-led Rwandan government whose campaign of violence against the Tutsi tribal minority has been characterized as genocide by Boutros-Ghali.

The terse French proposal introduced today asked the Security Council to give its blessing to a French-led military operation aimed at "ensuring the security and protection of civilians at risk.''