Spanish PM calls off meeting with Rwandan president

MADRID,  (Reuters) – Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis  Rodriguez Zapatero pulled out of a meeting with President Paul  Kagame yesterday after receiving a petition alleging the Rwandan  leader has violated human rights, an ally of Zapatero said. The two leaders had been scheduled as drivers of the  Millennium Development Goals — a United Nations initiative to  erradicate extreme poverty and reduce infant mortality along  with other goals by 2015.

“The prime minister yesterday received a petition from  various political groups saying that they didn’t think it was  appropriate for the meeting to take place”, Vice President Maria  Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said on Spanish television.

She said Zapatero had been “sensitive” to the petition and  would meet other political parties to explain why he had decided  not see Kagame.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos took  Zapatero’s place at the meeting, which was also attended by UN  Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Kagame has ruled Rwanda since 1994 when his victory over  Hutu extremists ended mass genocide there. He was initially  hailed as a hero, but critics have since accused him of  trampling on political and press freedoms.

The government rejects the accusations, saying it has  pursued dialogue and accepted opposing views since the 1994  genocide. Kagame is expected to win re-election in August.

In 2008, a Spanish judge issued a writ accusing Kagame of  crimes against humanity, genocide and terrorism. The court did  not issue an indictment, however, since Kagame has immunity as a  head of state.

Two years earlier, a French judge accused Kagame and nine  aides of shooting down former Rwandan President Juvenal  Habyarimana’s plane in April 1994 — the catalyst for the  killing of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in less than  100 days.

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