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Rwandans Surge Over Zaire Border, Despite Closing

ZAIREAN paratroopers fired into the air early Sunday and stopped hordes of Rwandan refugees from storming across a bridge leading into Zaire, witnesses said.

Shortly after French Legionnaires pulled out of the closed Ruzizi frontier post in line with an Aug. 22 deadline for a French troop withdrawal from Rwanda, scores of angry refugees broke through a line of United Nations Ethiopian soldiers left guarding the rickety bridge.

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Half an hour later, there was another surge as hundreds of refugees pushed from behind. The Ethiopians looked on helplessly as the Zairean paratroopers halted the stampede for a second time by firing into the air.

Zaire closed its border between Bukavu and the Rwandan town of Cyangugu on Saturday, fearing a repeat of the catastrophe in Goma, Zaire, last month, when more than 1 million refugees poured in.

In the last two days, more than 45,000 Hutus have crossed into Zaire in response to the French withdrawal of troops from their ``safe zone'' in southwestern Rwanda. Bukavu is crammed with about 100,000 Hutus.

With dysentery sweeping through town, aid agencies are trying to move as many people as possible to a dozen outlying camps that are already at the bursting point.

Relief officials see some room for optimism: New departures from the Rwandan towns of Kibuye and Gikongoro have fallen dramatically.

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