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US, Rwanda Reaffirm Close Ties


President Bush welcomed Rwandan President Paul Kagame to the White House, saying he is honored to welcome a leader Mr. Bush described as a "man of action." At a news conference at the Voice of America later Wednesday, President Kagame said the two sides did not discuss charges by international organizations of human rights violations in Rwanda.

President Bush spoke warmly of welcoming President Kagame to the White House for a second time.

"I'm honored to welcome you back," said President Bush. "The president, he's a man of action. He can get things done. I'm proud of your leadership. We talked about a lot of issues. We talked about the Sudan, and I want to thank the president for committing troops in the AU [African Union] mission to help deal with what I have called a genocide.

President Bush also thanked the Rwandan leader for his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

"This government has done a really good job of using some of the monies that we provided to save lives," he said. "And, I've always told people, that's one thing for the American government and the American people, more importantly, to generously write checks to help, but it requires strong leadership at home, and you provided that leadership."

The two sides discussed what President Kagame described as key issues, including U.S.-Rwandan relations and development of his poor country.

At a news conference at the Voice of America, Mr. Kagame said his talks with President Bush did not include the issue of human rights violations in Rwanda, which have been alleged by international groups.

"As for the accusations by human rights [groups], they have been answered at the time they came up," said Paul Kagame. "And it looks like there is not a single country in this world I know that hasn't been accused by Human Rights Watch, including the United States."

Among several issues raised by Human Rights Watch is concern over the status of thousands of Rwandan refugees. The group says the asylum seekers fear unfair treatment in Rwanda by the reconciliation courts set up after the horrors of the 1994 genocide there. Some of them also told Human Rights Watch they fear violence from Rwandan government officials or from genocide survivors who had threatened them.

During the mass killing in 1994, extremist Hutus killed 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis.

Following the genocide, the world community established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which meets in Tanzania, to help legally resolve the cases of some of the worst crimes against humanity. President Kagame had harsh words for the court.

"It has spent nearly $1.5 billion, and it has tried about under 40, I think 26-30 cases - worth $1.5 billion," he said. "I have a problem with that."

In its annual 2005 report on Rwanda, the human rights group Freedom House said the court has accused Rwanda of refusing to cooperate in war crimes investigations involving the Rwandan army.

President Kagame acknowledged that there are what he described as "misunderstandings" between Rwanda and the Tribunal. He said his government considers some of the court's employees as unfit to serve because they themselves face genocide accusations. He added that the Tribunal wants Rwanda to guarantee that those found guilty will not be subject to the death penalty, a sentence President Kagame says is allowed by Rwandan laws.

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