Zaire’s ailing president gave his backing Wednesday to a proposed multinational force to rescue more than 1 million refugees trapped by fighting in eastern Zaire.
President Mobutu Sese Seko pledged to help maintain a current cease-fire so the force could be sent “as soon as possible,” perhaps within weeks, said U.N. envoy Raymond Chretien, who is on his way to central Africa.
But the rebel leader who controls eastern Zaire said Wednesday he opposes any peace force that includes European and American troops. Only soldiers from neighboring African nations should take part, Laurent Kabila said in Bukavu, Zaire.
Kabila said a unilateral cease-fire called by the rebels will permit aid to reach the refugees without the need to call in non-African troops.
The United States and European nations are considering a request from African leaders for a U.N.-sponsored force to set up safe havens for Rwandan Hutu refugees in Zaire, provide them with food and medical aid, and escort them home to Rwanda. The refugees have fled fighting between Zairian troops and Rwandan-backed rebels.