U.S. denies supplying missiles that killed African leaders
April 7, 1998
Web posted at: 6:15 p.m. EDT (2215 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State and Defense departments denied Tuesday that the United States supplied the missiles used to shoot down a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994, triggering an ethnic blood bath.
"We categorically reject any suggestion that we would have
delivered any missiles to the perpetrators of this heinous act resulting in the deaths of two presidents," State Department spokesman Lee McClenney said.
"I think, first, it's a calumnious charge," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said. "And second, I think it's wrong."
McClenney said the United States has no knowledge about the origin of the missiles that killed Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira as their plane prepared to land in the Rwandan capital of Kigali on April 6, 1994.
Habyarimana's death touched off months of blood-letting that claimed more than 500,000 lives in Rwanda, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus who died at the hands of Hutu militants.
The denials came in response to claims made by Bernard Debre, a former French cooperation minister who said he had information linking the missiles used in the attack to weapons supplied to Uganda by the United States.
Debre claimed the missiles were Soviet-designed,
surface-to-air missiles captured by the United States in Iraq after the Gulf War.
But Bacon said the United States has not provided
anti-aircraft missiles to Uganda and, to his knowledge, has not provided any captured Iraqi arms to any country.
He also said that there were two charges made in the French media. One was that the missiles were provided by France. The other was that they were provided by the United States.
"We have no record of providing missiles to Uganda," he said.
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World Affairs Correspondent Ralph Begleiter and Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.