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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 June, 2003, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
DR Congo agrees on new army
Congolese people pass through Dele checkpoint five kilometres from Bunia, as they return to their homes carrying their belongings to Bunia, 28 June 2003
DR Congo has been ravaged by years of war
The government and rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to form a unified army, removing the main obstacle to setting up a transitional government.

The agreement is a key part of the peace deal signed in December to end five years of war in Congo, in which more than two million people have died either in combat or through starvation and disease.

A United Nations envoy, Moustapha Niasse, said the government and two main rebel groups agreed to divide major military posts.

The deal paves the way for the formation of a national unity government "very soon" he said.

The plan is for democratic elections to be held in DR Congo in two years time - the first since independence in 1960.

US President George Bush last week urged regional governments to push for the establishment of a transitional government by Monday.

Rival groups

Under the deal, the government will hold overall command of the army and head the air force, sources close to the negotiations said.

The Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) rebel group will command ground forces, and the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) rebel group will command naval forces, the sources said

DR Congo was plunged into war in 1998 when Uganda and Rwanda invaded to back rebel groups fighting to overthrow then-President Laurent Kabila.

The foreign troops have withdrawn but fighting between rival rebel groups has continued in north and eastern Congo.

A French-led international peacekeeping force is trying to stop the bloodshed in the north-eastern town of Bunia, where about 500 civilians have died in the last two months.

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