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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Approves French Force for Rwanda

UNITED NATIONS --The UN Security Council on Wednesday approved France's plan to intervene militarily to save lives in Rwanda, and the French defense minister said some troops could be on the ground as soon as Thursday. The vote on the 15-nation council was 10-0, with five abstentions by China, Brazil, Pakistan, New Zealand and Nigeria. France says it could begin deployment Thursday of its combat-ready 2,500-man force with orders to save lives and set up safe havens for refugees in the central African nation. The council said it was deeply concerned by the continuation of systematic and widespread killings of civilians and the expected delay of at least two months before all 5,500 UN troops can be deployed. The French mission, under French command, is viewed as an urgent interim measure until UN soldiers arrive. African nations may contribute troops, equipment and staging areas. Prior to the vote, Claude Dusaidi, spokesman for the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front, told reporters Wednesday: "We shall resist the French intervention with all means at our disposal.'' Rwandan rebels say in 1990 France backed the Hutu-dominated government, warding off a rebel drive. They say France is biased and would protect the Hutus who have committed most of the atrocities in which an estimated 200,000 people, mostly civilian Tutsis, have been killed. Earlier on Wednesday, the United Nations evacuated 42 French-speaking African peacekeepers from Kigali where heavy fighting raged between rebels and government forces. Major Jean-Guy Plante said that UN military observers from Togo, Congo and Senegal were evacuated to Nairobi as a precaution ahead of planned French military action strongly opposed by the rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front. "Indications lead us to believe they were not welcome," he said. France says its intervention is purely humanitarian and nonpolitical and says its soldiers will keep their distance from government, rebel and UN troops. Dusaidi asserted that more than 500,000 people have been killed and said that approving the French intervention would be like "declaring war on us.'' Rebels earlier said all UN troops should be withdrawn for their own safety if the council approves French intervention. The French mission is expected to last two months until the full UN force of 5,500 troops can be deployed. Only about 500 UN soldiers are now in Rwanda.