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Zairean rebels say no to PM's job offers

Etienne Tshisekedi, Zaire's new Prime Minister, yesterday unveiled a cabinet with no associates of President Mobutu Sese Seko, and six ministries reserved for rebels controlling a quarter of the country.

But a rebel official said the guerrillas would not join Mr Tshisekedi's government.

Asked by reporters, as he boarded a plane in the Zairean city of Goma for talks in South Africa, whether the rebel alliance would accept the posts reserved for the rebels, Raphael Nghenda, the rebel information commissioner, said without elaborating: "No".

In what local analysts described as a new front against the ailing and embattled Mr Mobutu, the Prime Minister dissolved a parliament dominated by Mr Mobutu's supporters.

Its legislative role would revert to the sovereign national conference that launched Zaire's democratic transition in 1991 and which, in theory, stripped Mr Mobutu of most powers.

"Tshisekedi has opened a second front against Mobutu," said a local commentator, referring to advances by Laurent Kabila's rebels who have put Mr Mobutu's army on the run in eastern Zaire.

A close Mobutu ally denounced Mr Tshisekedi's moves as unconstitutional. Other Mobutu supporters said the Prime Minister risked being removed immediately.

"He has no power to dissolve parliament. It is madness," said Banza Mukalayi, vice-president of Mr Mobutu's Popular Revolutionary Movement party. "Unless we return to the days of dictatorship, Tshisekedi alone cannot do this. The parliament itself cannot accept it."

Mr Tshisekedi, who announced details of the 26-member government at a news conference, said the portfolios of foreign affairs, defence, budget, planning, foreign trade and agriculture were reserved for the rebel alliance.

He praised Mr Kabila, whose rebels launched their rebellion from the Rwandan border in October. "Kabila has contributed to the return of legality. He merits the acclaim of our people," Mr Tshisekedi said. "I don't see the war continuing. Too much Zairean blood has been shed. I will see my brother Kabila and discuss."

Mr Tshisekedi, the opposition leader, has never accepted his 1993 sacking by Mr Mobutu after his appointment as prime minister by the national conference in 1991.