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Nothing heard on Rwanda 'black box' so far links it to fatal plane crash - UN spokesman

17 March 2004 Nothing heard so far on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) found last week at the United Nations links it to the 1994 aircraft crash that triggered the Rwanda genocide, a UN spokesman said today.

On Tuesday the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) - the UN's internal watchdog - took the so-called black box to the United States National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, D.C., where it was opened in the presence of experts from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said some conversation in French could be heard on the 30-minute tape but nothing so far links the CVR to the crash on 6 April 1994 of the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprian Ntayamira. Their deaths set off a chain of killings and massacres throughout Rwanda that year, with the death toll from the genocide mounting to more than 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis and "moderate" Hutu.

"Additional expert attention, as is normally the case, will be required to determine the exact contents of the tape," Mr. Eckhard said at a press briefing in New York. "This process will take some more time, the length of which cannot be determined now. Only when this additional review is completed can any definite conclusions be drawn."

Last Thursday Mr. Eckhard announced that after an internal inquiry - prompted by reporters' questions - a black box had been located the previous day in a locked filing cabinet in the Air Safety Unit of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Following the discovery, Secretary-General Kofi Annan ordered the OIOS to look into exactly what happened 10 years ago and how the UN came into possession of the device.

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