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RWANDA: Kagame briefs Bush on situation in Great Lakes region

NAIROBI, 5 March 2003 (IRIN) - During a visit to the White House on Tuesday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame briefed US President George W. Bush and US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on the political and security situation in Africa's Great Lakes region.

According to a statement issued on Wednesday by his office, Kagame said the presence of ex-FAR [Rwandan former army] and Interahamwe [Hutu extremist militias] - largely responsible for the 1994 slaughter of about 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus - in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) "continued to pose a threat to Rwanda's security".

He urged the US government to bring pressure to bear on the DRC government "to fulfil its commitments under the Lusaka and Pretoria agreements", adding that the formation of a national unity government in Kinshasa "would stabilise the region and improve the prospects for peace".

For his part, Bush "congratulated Rwanda on the decision to withdraw all its troops from the DRC", and expressed Washington's support for efforts to achieve peace, security and democracy in the region.

Kagame, who has been in the United States since Saturday, thanked Bush for the continuing economic support of the US government for various development projects in Rwanda, particularly in HIV/AIDS prevention and development of the agricultural sector.

Kagame also briefed Bush on the constitution-making process, the forthcoming referendum and elections to be held later this year in Rwanda, calling for further US government support for these processes.

Kagame's office reported that both leaders had "expressed satisfaction about the warm and strengthening relations" between their countries, and "committed their respective governments to working together to consolidate these ties".

This is Kagame's first visit to the US at the invitation of Bush. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Charles Muligande; Rwanda's ambassador to the US, Richard Sezibera; Director of Cabinet in the Presidency Theogene Rudasingwa; and Presidential National Security Adviser Emmanuel Ndahiro.

Also on Tuesday, Muligande and US Secretary of State Colin Powell signed an agreement on the reciprocal exemption of citizens of both countries from prosecution by the International Criminal Court without the consent of the government of the concerned country, Radio Rwanda reported. Rwanda thus became the 22nd country to sign the accord with the US.

Among other items on his agenda while in the US, Kagame is scheduled on Thursday to discuss "Current Prospects for Peace in the Great Lakes Region" from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC. Chester Crocker, the institute's board chairman and former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, will chair the visit. The address will be followed by questions from the floor and will be webcast live. Further information

Themes: (IRIN) Governance

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