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France, Rwanda Ready to Re-Establish Diplomatic Ties


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrived in Rwanda Saturday for a one-day visit aimed at normalizing Franco-Rwandan relations. Noel King has more in this report from the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Foreign Minister Kouchner and Rwandan President Paul Kagame stressed that the two nations are keen to re-establish diplomatic ties, which were severed in 2006.

The French foreign minister spoke to journalists in Kigali, following a brief meeting with Kagame.

"We want to reestablish good relations. We have changed, not only President, government, but also views," he said.

Rwanda cut ties with France in 2006, after a French judge alleged that Kagame was implicated in the assassination of his predecessor, whose plane was shot down over Kigali.

The downing of President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was the catalyst for the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were butchered by Hutu militias as well as by ordinary Rwandans.

Mr. Kagame has accused French troops of backing Hutu militias responsible for most of the killings.

But Kagame said Saturday that Rwanda must not dwell on the past.

"We are looking forward. We want to understand and get rid of any obstacles based on the mistakes of the past so that we can create a better future in our relationship," he said.

Kouchner also paid a visit to the Rwandan genocide memorial in Kigali, where more than 250,000 genocide victims are buried in mass graves.

The foreign minister will travel to the west African nation of Burkina Faso on Sunday.