December 3, 1996 in Nation/World

Efforts To Aid Refugees Stepped Up

Compiled From Wire Services

As refugees trickled back to Rwanda on Monday, American, British and Canadian forces stepped up aid efforts without waiting for a long-discussed international force to coalesce.

As the three nations with some 600 troops worked out of a base at Entebbe airport in Uganda to aid refugees heading home from Zaire, 11 other members of a multinational aid team deliberated their commitment to the project.

But as the flow of returning refugees slowed to a thin line, reconnaissance planes Monday found one large group of refugees moving away from Rwanda.

The aircraft saw more than 150,000 Rwandan refugees near Biriko, 45 miles southwest of Goma, said Ray Wilkinson, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The group was moving northwest toward Walikale, 90 miles northwest of Goma.

It appeared those refugees, moving deeper into Zaire, were being led by Rwandan Hutu militias “and probably have no intention of returning home,” Wilkinson said.

The original international plan, based on fears of mass starvation, called for a Canadian-led military intervention force to help reach refugees stranded by fighting in eastern Zaire. But half a million refugees have left refugee camps and returned home, reducing the need for emergency international action.

There was also concern about an active volcano. Officials said that 30 miles north of the border town of Goma, lava flowed from the Nyamulagira volcano after it erupted Sunday. But there was no immediate danger to refugees.

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