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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 27, 1996


Rwanda/Eastern Zaire

The United States welcomes Canada's proposal to establish the multinational headquarters for the planned humanitarian mission in Central Africa. The mission would be to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate the return of refugees to Rwanda.

The U.S. is prepared to participate in this multinational mission (MNF) under Canadian leadership and to contribute personnel to the headquarters, civil-military affairs unit and other support elements while continuing to plan for potential additional mission tasks. The U.S. is also contributing U.S. personnel, many of whom are already in the region, who will provide airlift, air control and related services in support of the planned multinational mission.

The United States looks forward to working with the Government of Canada and others to finalize the details of the mission plan, including establishing the political oversight body for the mission known as the Steering Board, obtaining the necessary consent of the governments in the region, enabling significant African participation in the mission and defining appropriate rules of engagement.

At the same time, we are working with Canada and others to plan for potential airdrops into Zaire. This planning will take several days. During this time, we want to work cooperatively to construct a practical concept of operations for airdrops that is as safe as possible, acceptable to concerned governments and parties in the region and that will encourage refugees to return home. Once that planning is complete, we expect to make a final decision as to what can be accomplished effectively and what precise role the U.S. will play in this effort. In the meantime, the U.S. is putting personnel on alert for potential airdrop operations and taking other steps that would enable the U.S. to respond swiftly in the event that airdrops are required.

The U.S. continues to lend substantial assistance to the Government of Rwanda, UN agencies and NGOs to help reintegrate those refugees that have recently returned. Last week, the U.S. pledged $140 million for that purpose. At the same time, we are urging that humanitarian organizations be allowed full and immediate access to populations at risk in Zaire. We welcome recent steps taken in that regard, which if sustained, could substantially meet the needs of those refugees and displaced persons in Eastern Zaire.

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