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Friday, November 6, 1998 Published at 15:39 GMT

World: Africa

Rwanda admits having troops in Congo

Paul Kagame made the admission to Nelson Mandela

Rwanda has for the first time admitted that its troops are involved in the war in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Rwandan Vice President, Paul Kagame, said Rwandan soldiers were helping rebel forces in the Congo fighting.

He made the admission after talks with the South African President, Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria.

General Kagame said his forces were in Congo to protect Rwanda's national security. He refused to say how many were there.

[ image: Mr Kabila: Backed by several African countries]
Mr Kabila: Backed by several African countries
Up to now, Rwanda had consistently denied reports that it was involved in the Congo rebellion against President Laurent Kabila.

Rwandan forces have been helping the mainly-Tutsi rebels in their efforts to overthrow government forces reinforced by troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad.

Mr Mandela said the Rwandan statement paved the way for a ceasefire in the Congo conflict. He said he had reason to believe there was going to be progress.

Rwanda's refusal to admit it was supporting the rebels had been seen as a stumbling block in any peace process.

Its official denials had been looking more and more ragged, particularly since Rwandan troops had actually been seen on the ground in Congo.

Sources inside South Africa's Foreign Ministry have stressed that negotiation remains South Africa's best - if not its only - hope in Congo.

There has been no secret about the tension between South Africa and the countries which have sent troops into Congo.

The BBC South Africa Correspondent Jeremy Vine says Pretoria's search for a diplomatic solution is becoming more and more vigorous, possibly even desperate.

On Thursday South Africa's deputy foreign minister said the war in Congo meant Africa was facing its greatest danger since colonial days and if it was not stopped, a massive African war could become a reality.

The Congo rebels have consistently called for direct talks with President Kabila, but he has refused.

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