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Congo rivals in bid for peace

COUNTRIES FIGHTING in the Democratic Republic of the Congo meet in Zambia on Monday to set up a joint military council that will oversee the shaky peace pact signed in Lusaka last Saturday by some belligerents in the war in the east of the country.

Zimbabwe's Foreign Minister, Stan Mudenge, said yesterday all parties who endorsed last week's peace agreement wanted it to succeed, although rebels fighting to topple the Congolese President, Laurent Kabila, refused to sign. Mr Kabila's government and his military allies, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, signed the document, with the countries backing the rebels, Rwanda and Uganda. A split among rebel factions prevented them signing. The deal calls for a UN peace-keeping force in the Congo, but the main Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) vowed to extend the war.

"That's what we want to stop," said Mr Mudenge. "If you are going to have a ceasefire declared, and you don't have anybody monitoring or observing it, what do you expect?"

Mr Kabila's allies said rebels threatened their supply lines and warned they would retaliate if attacked. They said rebels attacked seven towns and villages in north-east and south-east Congo. The RCD leader Emile Ilunga said Mr Kabila's troops attacked rebel-held towns soon after the pact was signed. Mr Ilunga said government troops suffered heavy casualties when his forces counter-attacked.

The RCD has rejected a general amnesty offered by Mr Kabila, saying his removal remained its primary goal.

The Congolese Liberation Movement says it has captured Gemena, 1,000 kilometres (630 miles) north-east of the capital, Kinshasa. (Reuters)