The Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Rwandan rebels and government forces exchanged heavy mortar and gunfire in the capital Sunday, and efforts to mediate an end to more than two weeks of bloodletting failed in neighboring Tanzania.

"The fighting has been exceptionally heavy today," said Abdul Kabia, a U.N. spokesman in the capital, Kigali. "The fire is very, very heavy."

Kabia, interviewed by telephone, said government representatives to the talks did not show up when the United Nations sent a plane Saturday to bring them to Tanzania. Military officers in Kigali told the United Nations on Sunday they were unable to contact officials in Gitarama, the town southwest of the capital where the government fled the fighting two weeks ago.

In the northern Tanzania town of Arusha, where the talks were to be held, Tanzania Foreign Ministry official Kassim Mwawado said, "There will be no talks for sure. The Rwandan Patriotic Front representative has just left."

President Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania had invited Rwanda's government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front for talks on ending the carnage that has killed an estimated 100,000 people.

Two million people have fled their homes and thousands more are barricaded in buildings in desperate efforts to escape the bloodletting which began a day after Rwanda's president died in a mysterious plane crash in Kigali on April 6.

UNICEF said Sunday that it had resumed an airlift of urgently needed medicines and other supplies to Kigali.

A Canadian aircraft arrived Saturday with over four tons of soap and surgical supplies, the agency said. Another landed Friday with 117 boxes of emergency health kits and surgical instruments.

UNICEF said it hoped to fly more aid in the next few days.

A U.N. team is in Kigali to assess the scope of the humanitarian disaster. There have been warnings of epidemics and possible famine.

U.N. relief agencies have pulled their staff out of the country to escape the slaughter, leaving the International Committee of the Red Cross and a handful of other private aid organizations to cope.

The fighting is between government forces, dominated by the majority Hutus, and the rebel front, made up mainly of minority Tutsis. Marauding gangs of Hutus, wielding machetes and automatic weapons, roam the streets killing Tutsis.

Hutus Tutsis have fought for political supremacy since independence from Belgium in 1962.

Mwawado said it had been doubtful all along that talks would get off the ground because the rebels opposed face-to-face meetings with government officials. The rebels said they went to Tanzania only to present their position, not to negotiate.

"But we had hoped to have some proximity talks and hopefully narrow the areas of their differences," Mwawado said.

It wasn't immediately possible to ascertain the fate of a unilateral cease-fire the rebels declared Saturday.

The rebels said the cease-fire would begin midnight Monday (6 p.m. EDT) if the government ended all killings in areas it controls and accepted an international inquiry into the slaughter.

The rebels also demanded joint patrols of U.N., rebel and government forces in Kigali, which the military opposes.

Kabia said 32 foreign nationals who had been under Red Cross protection were evacuated to Kenya on Sunday.

In neighboring Burundi, a western diplomat said Sunday that thousands of Rwandans fleeing their homeland were arriving with gunshot and machete wounds.

Radio France International quoted an unidentified Red Cross official as saying widespread killing was continuing in Rwanda's second largest town, Butare, 45 miles southwest of Kigali.

"The watchword is the elimination of those who are considered enemies, and no one is spared: children, wives, babies, all those close to the enemy," the Red Cross official said in a report monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp. Read Next Article