Clinton, in peacemaker's role, pleads for end to ethnic killing

ARUSHA, Tanzania - Lending U.S. prestige to an effort to end one of Africa's bloodiest wars, President Clinton and Nelson Mandela lectured warring factions from Burundi Monday on the consequences of the collapse of peace talks. Seven years of fighting between that land's ethnic Tutsis and Hutus have killed 200,000 people.

''When all is said and done, only you can bring an end to the bloodshed and sorrow your country has suffered,'' Clinton said.

Clinton, rounding out the second Africa tour of his presidency, flew to Tanzania after a two-day visit to Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, which is still shedding the vestiges of corruption under autocratic rule. After his stop in Arusha, Clinton was continuing on to Egypt for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the Middle East peace process.

Negotiators in Tanzania had hoped that Clinton would witness the signing of a major Burundi peace accord. But the power-sharing agreement signed Monday wasn't approved by Hutu rebels, who hadn't participated in the talks, or by several small Tutsi parties.

Mandela, the former South African president and chief mediator, lashed out at the Tutsi parties that didn't sign, accusing them of ignoring ''the slaughter of innocent people inside Burundi.''

They ''are sabotaging this agreement,'' Mandela said.

As Mandela spoke, several seats on the stage remained empty. But, in a symbolic move, the Tutsi representatives filed back in to the auditorium to take their seats as Clinton addressed the group.

After the signing, Mandela lost his balance and fell forward. Several African leaders caught him and set him back on his feet. The 81-year-old Mandela waved it off, laughing.

Clinton avoided pointing fingers, calling on both sides to end the ethnic warfare.

''I do think it is absolutely certain that if you let this moment slip away, it will dig the well of bitterness deeper and pile the mountain of grievances higher,'' he said.

Clinton stood with Mandela and African leaders - from President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana to the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi - in hopes his American presence would serve as a catalyst for peace.

But he arrived to find the peace talks, which have gone on for more than two years, in disarray. Clinton huddled with Mandela for about 20 minutes, and had a 30-minute session with Burundian President Pierre Buyoya before joining the other leaders.

The White House insisted that Clinton was in Arusha simply to show his support for Mandela regardless of whether a peace agreement would be ready.

''We know this is a long-term process, one way or another,'' said White House national security spokesman P.J. Crowley.

As soon as Air Force One touched down here, Clinton and Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa met briefly in an airport terminal in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro. They walked together to a stage beside the tarmac to watch their respective transportation secretaries sign an ''open skies'' agreement allowing unrestricted international airport-to-airport access between the United States and Tanzania.

Alluding to the larger purpose for Clinton's visit, Mkapa thanked Clinton for encouraging African leaders to work together on problems such as the Burundi conflict.

''He has supported our efforts at finding ... African solutions to African problems,'' Mkapa said. ''An African proverb says, 'Only the owner can free his home from mice.' Indeed, that is as it should be.''

Clinton also recalled the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya two years ago that killed more than 200 people, including 12 Americans. He said the terrorists ''failed utterly to deter us'' from establishing peaceful relations.

As Clinton left Nigeria on Monday morning, President Olusegun Obasanjo sent him off with a ceremony replete with tribal dancers and a gun salute. He and Clinton held hands as they walked to Clinton's limousine, and exchanged a tight embrace.

Clinton, traveling with daughter Chelsea, received an enthusiastic welcome in Tanzania. Crowds estimated at more than 10,000 lined the 30-mile motorcade route from the airport into the city. Many waved U.S. and Tanzanian flags.


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