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The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"The aim of the this first phase of the peace agreement is modest"
 real 28k

Thursday, 15 March, 2001, 13:33 GMT
Troops leave DR Congo frontline
Rwandan soldiers in Pweto
Rwanda began removing its forces last month
The Ugandan army says it has resumed a partial pull-out of its forces from the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the day that other forces have said they would pull back from the frontline.

There are indications that Rwandan-backed rebels have also begun to disengage their forces from front line areas.

The conflict has pitted Congolese troops - backed by Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe - against rebels supported by Rwandan and Ugandan forces.

The disengagement is the first phase of a ceasefire agreement, which is due to be followed by the deployment of UN peacekeepers.

UN plan
15 March - troops to pull back 15 km
15 May - complete withdrawal of foreign troops
UN to deploy 3,000 peacekeepers
Under deals reached in Kampala and Harare last year, and at the UN in New York last month, all forces in DR Congo are due to begin to fall back 15km (9.3 miles) from the front line.

It is hoped that the pulling back of enemy forces will open up enough space to make further clashes unlikely.

Withdrawals promised

Initial withdrawals from several areas by Rwandan and Ugandan troops, which back rebel groups in the two-and-a-half year war, have fuelled a sense of optimism over the peace process.

But an envoy to DR Congo President Joseph Kabila has warned that Kinshasa's allies would not leave the country until Rwandan and Ugandan forces complete their withdrawal.

Uganda promised to airlift out another 750 of its troops on Thursday.

The rebels and their backers control of much of the north and east of the country, and the front line between the two sides extends approximately 2,400 km (1,500 miles).

Peace hopes

On Monday, DR Congo President Joseph Kabila told the BBC that he was determined to bring stability and unity to his divided country, and urged Europe to put pressure on Rwanda and Uganda to comply with the peace deal.

Ugandan soldier
Uganda supports one rebel group in the east of the country

The UN Observer Mission in DR Congo has urged the government, rebel and foreign forces to "avoid any military action" that might jeopardise the operation, set to last two weeks.

In his capacity as chairman of a political committee created under the 1999 ceasefire deal, Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Stan Mudenge urged all combatants to stick to to the deal.

He said: "This is a day all Congolese and men and women of goodwill the world over have been waiting for with great expectation."

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See also:

28 Feb 01 | Africa
Troops withdraw from DR Congo
17 Jan 01 | Africa
Timeline: DR Congo conflict
16 Jan 01 | Africa
DR Congo's troubled history
26 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
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