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Red Cross gathers Brazzaville bodies

Red Cross workers started picking up corpses from the rubble-strewn streets of Brazzaville on Saturday, cleaning up after a four-month war that ended with an ex-dictator returning to power.

Search teams found 32 corpses by midday Saturday, but hundreds and possibly thousands more were expected to be recovered as debris was cleared away and searchers gained access to more neighborhoods.Gen. Denis Sassou-Nguesso made his first public appearance late Friday since declaring victory the previous day.

From his hometown of Oyo, 250 miles northeast of the capital, Sassou-Nguesso called for a government of national unity but gave no timetable for elections or a return to civilian rule in the Republic of Congo.

Sassou-Nguesso's rival, the elected president, Pascal Lissouba, remained in hiding and refused to concede defeat despite losing Brazzaville and the commercial capital, Pointe Noire, on Wednesday.

France, the former colonial ruler, said Saturday it was sending a mobile hospital equipped with surgery, hospitalization and clinical units to Brazzaville to deal with what the Foreign Ministry called a "worrisome" health situation.

Sassou-Nguesso's victory returned him to power six years after demands for democratic reforms ended his 1979-91 military dictatorship.

He lost the country's first multiparty election to Lissouba in 1992, and the two were expected to face each other at the polls again last July. But fighting between their private militias derailed the election.

Despite Sassou-Nguesso's victory over the capital, Brazzaville was far from calm. Heavily armed militiamen were a menacing presence in the streets, looting everything from women's wigs to board games.