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France Denies Involvement in Rwanda Genocide


France has rejected a report by Rwanda claiming Paris played a role in the 1994 genocide in the East African nation. Lisa Bryant reports from Paris the French government says it still wants to rebuild frayed relations with Rwanda.

In remarks to reporters Wednesday, French Foreign Minister spokesman Romain Nadal said the report by a Rwandan commission made "unacceptable accusations against French political and military officials," and he questioned the commission's objectivity.

Published Tuesday, the 500-page report claims France was aware of preparations leading up to Rwanda's 1994 genocide that killed some 800,000* people in just a few months. It accuses the French military in Rwanda of contributing to the planning of the massacres and even taking part in the killings that mostly targeted members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group. France had military advisors in Rwanda leading up to the genocide, and later headed a humanitarian operation there.

It implicates 13 French politicians and 20 military officials, including former French prime minister Alain Juppe - who was foreign minister at the time - and late president Francois Mitterrand.

The accusations against France are not new, nor are the French rebuttals. During a visit to Kigali in January, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner again denied French military involvement in the genocide.

Mr. Kouchner said there was a certain reticence and problems of understanding by the French military back home, but he would never attack the French army because it was not responsible for the killings. In his opinion, the mistakes were political ones.

France and Rwanda have traded accusations over the years over just who was responsible for the killings. The two countries cut diplomatic ties in 2006 after leading French judge Jean -Louis Brugiere accused current Rwandan President Paul Kagame of being involved in the death of his predecessor in 1994, which sparked the genocide.

The two countries have sought to mend relations in recent months, with a meeting between Kagame and French President Nicolas Sarkozy last December and Kouchner's trip to Rwanda in January. Foreign Ministry spokesman Nadal said Tuesday that France remained determined to rebuild a new relationship with Rwanda.

* typo corrected 1 September 08 - report originally published as 800 people.

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