Congo rebels not signing declaration of ceasefire: Mediators

Rebel negotiators at talks to end a four-year conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have not recommitted to an existing ceasefire, mediators said on Sunday.

Congo rebels not signing declaration of ceasefire: Mediators

Laurent Nkunda's Tutsi rebels have routed the Congolese forces of President Joseph Kabila, captured large swathes of territory in North Kivu province and uprooted a quarter of a million people since July.

Both Congo and Nkunda's National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) have declared unilateral ceasefires, but attempts to strike a joint agreement have floundered and the CNDP also rowed back from its December truce.

"The CNDP refused to sign a joint declaration of cessation of hostilities with the government of the DRC," the mediators said in a statement released early on Sunday.

"Furthermore, the CNDP has declined to recommit itself to its own existing unilateral ceasefire declaration," they said, although Congo reaffirmed its Nov. 18 truce.

The talks in Kenya's capital Nairobi are being led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. They are due to resume on Jan. 7.

Given continuing differences over who should actually be at the talks, both sides have said the first aim should be to formalise a broad ceasefire.

But the refusal of the rebels to even recommit to their unilateral Dec. 6 truce may raise fears of further violence.

The mediators said the CNDP would not consider a joint ceasefire agreement on the grounds Congolese forces had reoccupied territory following a rebel withdrawal. The mediators said those allegations were "without foundation".

Nkunda has previously insisted on direct talks with Kabila, who won 2006 elections in the vast, mineral-rich country.

The rebel negotiators in Nairobi also called for representatives of the Congolese national assembly and senate, as well as parliamentarians, to be facilitators at the talks.

While this was rejected by the Congolese, the mediators said in their statement it would not hold up the dialogue and both sides were still committed to the talks.

The United Nations has agreed to send 3,000 troops to strengthen its force of 17,000 in Congo. But Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said it could take six months to deploy and called on the European Union to send troops.

Brussels, however, is split on whether to send a so-called bridging force. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has been charged with coming up with a response to the U.N. call.


Reuters

Last Mod: 21 Aralık 2008, 16:37
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