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Rebels join forces in push for power

REBELS FIGHTING President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced a broad-based opposition coalition yesterday to spearhead an effort to drive him from power.

Speaking from Goma in eastern Congo where they met yesterday, rebel leaders said they were putting final touches to their alliance, which would be known as the Congolese Movement for Democracy.

They said alliance leaders were drawn from the east, west and south of the country, including Mr Kabila's home region of Katanga, near theborder with Zambia.

Jean-Pierre Ondekane, the rebel commander, whose troops from the Rwandan army helped Mr Kabila depose the former dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, in May last year, said the rebels had cut an oil pipeline in western Congo that supplies Kinshasa. He also said troops had reached the outskirts of theCongo River port of Matadi, 173 miles south-west of the capital.

Officials in Kinshasa, meanwhile, said that government troops had retaken the city of Bukavu, south of Goma, and its airport, while other loyalists were fighting for the western town of Boma. Mr Ondekane denied that Bukavu had been retaken by government forces.

He said that rebel aircraft were supporting forces on the ground at Kitona airbase just outside the seaside town of Muanda and in Kisangani, 520 miles north-east of Kinshasa, on the Congo River.