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The BBC's Mark Devenport
"Large swathes of DR Congo are controlled by foreign armies"
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The BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington
"A positive step"
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The BBC's Jumbe Omari
"Congo is in the heart of Africa"
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Saturday, 3 February, 2001, 03:28 GMT
Kabila urges new peace effort
Joseph Kabila and Colin Powell
Kabila pledged to kick-start peace talks to General Powell
The Democratic Republic of Congo's new president, Joseph Kabila, has urged those who have taken up arms in his country to sit down around a table with him to talk peace.

Addressing a formal meeting of the UN Security Council, President Kabila called for a precise timetable for the deployment of UN troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the withdrawal of the foreign soldiers who occupy large parts of his country.

President Kabila at United Nations
Kabila gave an "impressive" performance at the UN
The statement follows a string of meetings in the past four days with the key international peace brokers.

The UN has delayed the deployment of a 5,500-strong force to the DRC because of doubts over whether the countries involved in the Congo conflict are committed to the on-going peace process.

Joseph Kabila's assassinated father, Laurent, was widely viewed as creating obstacles to the Lusaka peace process. The new president is trying to overcome them.

Impassioned speech

Speaking in French, the 29-year-old president said his country had suffered too much and it was now vital that the Lusaka peace process should be revived.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame
Kagame: Breakthrough meeting with Kabila
He called for a precise timetable for the disengagement of the warring parties within his country and to the deployment of a 5,500-strong UN force.

He also wanted such a timetable to cover the unconditional withdrawal of rebel-supporting Rwandan and Ugandan armies and the eventual withdrawal of those of Zimbabwe and Angola who supported come to his assistance.

UN ambassadors appeared impressed by the new leader's statement, although several countries made it clear that they now want to see real progress on the ground.

Optimism

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and members of the Security Council will take heart from President Kabila's rapid decision to hold face-to-face talks with Rwanda, whose soldiers occupy large parts of the DRC.

Kabila's diplomacy
Tues Jan 30
President Mbeki
Wed Jan 31
President Chirac
Thurs Feb 1
President Kagame and Colin Powell
Fri Feb 2
Kofi Annan
Mr Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame met in Washington on Thursday.

Our correspondent in Washington says the impetus for the meeting appeared to have come from the two leaders themselves.

The Lusaka agreement, which allows for UN intervention, was never put into effect as the parties could not agree on the details.

Rwanda argues that it needs to control eastern DR Congo because of the presence in the region of the Interahamwe - militia groups linked to the 1994 Rwandan genocide - who Rwanda believes still pose a threat to its security.

Rwandan troops propelled Laurent Kabila to power in 1997, but Rwanda transferred its support to anti-Kabila rebels after the late president failed to deal with the Interahamwe.

Kabila pledge

His son took up office promising to press ahead with the implementation of the peace plans, which so far have done little to reduce the level of conflict.

His overtures were rejected by the main rebel group, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democratic (RCD).

But Rwanda's President Kagame expressed a commitment to pressing ahead with the peace process when he met the new US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, on Wednesday.

Mr Powell then met Mr Kabila on Thursday, and is believed to have been impressed by the Congolese leader's commitment to the peace process.

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See also:

02 Feb 01 | Africa
Kabila's whirlwind tour
26 Jan 01 | Africa
Kabila promises peace efforts
26 Jan 01 | Africa
Joseph Kabila sworn in
22 Jan 01 | Africa
Massacres in eastern Congo
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