Congo refuses to negotiate with 'Rwanda stooge' rebels

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) yesterday dismissed a demand from rebels in the country's east for truce talks, saying that the insurgent force pushing towards the city of Goma was a tool of neighbouring Rwanda.

The rejection meant that the worst fighting in the area in four years was only likely to intensify, bringing with it a new humanitarian crisis as refugees fled the city.

The M23 rebels had halted their advance about three miles from Goma yesterday and gave the government 24 hours to start talks or face a new onslaught. They say Kinshasa broke the terms of a 2009 peace agreement that integrated them into the army as a solution to an earlier rebellion. A government spokesman said it was not interested in rebel proposals or ultimatums. "M23 is defined by the government as a fiction created by Rwanda to hide their criminal activities against the DRC," Lambert Mende, the DRC's Information Minister, said.

United Nations experts back the government contention that Rwanda, which has intervened in Congo repeatedly over the past 18 years, is behind the M23 revolt. Rwanda denies involvement.

Congo is rich in minerals, including diamonds, gold, copper and coltan –used in mobile phones. But little money has been spent on developing a country the size of western Europe. The government accuses Rwanda of wanting to control the mineral resources by backing the insurgents.