updated 11/24/2006 6:44:36 AM ET 2006-11-24T11:44:36

Rwanda recalled its ambassador from Paris on Friday after a French judge requested President Paul Kagame stand trial over the killing of a former leader, which sparked a 1994 genocide.

The Rwandan foreign ministry issued a statement accusing France of trying to topple the Kagame government and said it might break off diplomatic ties with the French.

Thousands of Rwandans protested on Thursday in the capital Kigali after the anti-terrorism judge also issued arrest warrants for nine associates of Kagame over the shooting down of a plane carrying former President Juvenal Habyarimana.

The accusations have infuriated the Kagame government which calls them a cover-up for France’s alleged role in training soldiers who carried out the genocide, now being probed in Rwanda.

“We have recalled our ambassador to France for consultations,” Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Murigande told Reuters.

“Given the level of enmity as expressed by the latest move, we are beginning to question the need of maintaining diplomatic relations with such a country that is aggressive to us,” Murigande said.

Rwanda said France was trying to bring down its government.

“For the last 12 years, France has waging both overt and covert war against the government of Rwanda hoping to overthrow it and re-instate to power allies and perpetrators of the genocide,” a foreign ministry statement said.

France had no immediate comment. Rwanda was a Belgian colony until independence in 1962, but France maintained close links with the Francophone country from 1975 to 1994, providing financial and military support to Habyarimana’s government.

There were three French crew members on the plane which was shot down.

Immunity
Kagame has immunity under French law but Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere called for him to be tried by a U.N. court on what he said was evidence Kagame and his military staff devised the operation to shoot down Habyarimana’s plane in April 1994.

The crash, which Hutu extremists blamed on Tutsis, was used to fan the flames of ethnic hatred and launch a slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderates Hutus over 100 days.

Kagame is revered by many genocide survivors because it was his rebel army, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, that marched across Rwanda to defeat the Hutu extremists and seize control.

Rwanda last month launched a probe into France’s role in the genocide. Rwanda accused France of backing Habyarimana’s government and training soldiers it knew were plotting to commit genocide against Tutsis, among other charges Paris has denied.

In a demonstration on Thursday, 25,000 protesters including genocide survivors accused France of complicity in the killings and scoffed at the warrants.

Under French law the warrants, to be passed on by Interpol, mean the suspects have been placed under official investigation and now face questioning by the French judge.

The judge issued warrants for the Rwandan chief of general staff, the army chief of staff, Rwanda’s ambassador to India, and retired and active members of Rwanda’s security and intelligence apparatus.

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