Rwanda condemns US M23 child soldiers sanctions

M23 rebels walking through hills in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (30 November 2012)
Image caption M23 fighters launched a rebellion last May, forcing 800,000 from their homes

Rwanda has condemned the US imposition of sanctions, denying any links to the use of child soldiers by rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo.

The US has withdrawn military aid to Rwanda, accusing it of backing the M23 rebels, believed to recruit minors.

A Rwandan military spokesman said the decision was not based on evidence.

Rwanda denies persistent reports that it backs the M23, whose rebellion has forced tens of thousands from their homes in DR Congo.

"It is surprising that Rwanda would be liable for matters that are neither on its territory nor in its practices," said army spokesman Joseph Nzabamwita.

The US has had close military ties with Rwanda since President Paul Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) came to power after the end of the 1994 genocide.

"As a long term partner of the Rwanda Defence Force, the United States has ample evidence that our forces have never tolerated the use of children in combat," Brig Gen Nzabamwita said

The UN has accused Rwanda of backing the M23, which is led by ethnic Tutsis.

Rwanda has twice invaded DR Congo, saying it wants to stop ethnic Hutu rebel groups based there from attacking its territory.

President Kagame, a Tutsi, led the RPF when it ended the genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

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