December 17, 2008 / 4:47 PM / 11 years ago

Sweden halts $15 mln aid to Rwanda over UN charge

STOCKHOLM, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Sweden will suspend nearly $15 million in aid to Rwanda after a U.N. report accused Kigali of supporting Tutsi rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, the Swedish government said on Wednesday.

Sweden’s decision followed a similar Dutch move last week.

The U.N. report accuses Rwanda of supporting rebels loyal to renegade Congolese Tutsi Gen. Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese army of backing Rwandan Hutu rebels. Both the Congolese and Rwandan governments deny providing support for any rebel groups.

The Swedish government said in a statement it was taking the U.N. report seriously and had stopped a planned 80 million crown ($14.5 million) budget support payment to Rwanda. Sweden provides 140 million crowns per year in aid to the country.

The Dutch foreign ministry said last week that 3 million euros ($4.2 million) in aid would be withheld after the report.

Although the amounts are symbolic, the suspension of aid is a knock for a country that has long been a donor favourite because of its economic reforms as well as its recovery from the genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in 1994.

Overseas development aid accounted for more than a quarter of Rwanda’s gross domestic product in 2005, making it one of the world’s 10 most aid-dependent countries, according to U.N. figures.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report, details of which have been obtained by Reuters, this week.

Sweden’s minister for international development cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson, said the Nordic country still hoped to be able to help with peace efforts.

"I will continue to seek a constructive dialogue with Rwanda to discuss what we can do together to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Congo," Carlsson said in a statement.

About a quarter of a million people have been displaced in fighting since the end of August, while more than 5 million people have died since the beginning of the 1998-2003 war.

(Reporting by Victoria Klesty in Stockholm and Reed Stevenson in Amsterdam; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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