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The BBC's Stephanie Wolters in Kinshasa
"He (kabila).... hopes he could persuade Burundian government troops to leave the Congolese territory"
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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 08:03 GMT
Congo UN force cut
President Kagame addressing the UN
President Kagame outlining his conditions for peace
The United Nations has announced a new plan for deploying peacekeepers to the Democratic Republic of Congo, cutting the number of troops it says it needs.

The move comes as key players in the conflict discuss arrangements for a regional summit to try to revive the peace process.

The summit has now been rescheduled for Thursday, but it is not yet clear if Rwandan President Paul Kagame will attend.

Under the new UN plan, a force of 500 military observers would be backed by about 2,500 troops. A year ago the UN Security Council had authorised a force of 5,537 troops and observers for the mission.

Correspondents say the UN move is apparently designed to move the peace process forward during a relative lull in the conflict.

Summit postponed

A regional summit to discuss the conflict was supposed to take place in the Zambian capital Lusaka on Tuesday, but it has now been postponed until Thursday, after the Rwandan president refused to attend.

Kagame's conditions
Address the presence of Hutu rebels in eastern Congo
Start a dialogue of all Congolese groups
All foreign armies to withdraw from DR Congo

Zambia's Minister for Presidential Affairs, Eric Silwamba, said he hoped Mr Kagame could still be persuaded to take part.

The United States also urged the Rwandan leader to reconsider.

Mr Kagame told journalists in Kigali that the facilitator of the talks - President Frederick Chiluba of Zambia - was no longer an impartial mediator, as his country was still involved in the fighting in the DR Congo.

Mr Kagame added that he was prepared to take part in negotiations at a different venue outside Zambia.

Rwanda and Uganda are the main backers of the rebels fighting to overthrow the DR Congo Government.

Troops from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Zambia are also engaged in the fighting, in support of the government forces.

Mandela visit

The former South African President, Nelson Mandela, is going to the DR Congo on Tuesday to discuss regional security with its new president, Joseph Kabila.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
President Kabila recently met five world leaders in five days

African diplomats were quoted as saying a power play between South Africa and Zambia had complicated plans for the summit. Mr Chiluba has said South Africa wants it to be held in Pretoria.

All the warring sides signed a ceasefire agreement in Lusaka in 1999, which has been frequently violated.

But the UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno, said no major violations had been reported in the past three weeks.

Both Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame recently pledged their commitment to the Lusaka agreement. According to Mr Guehenno, there is now a "window of opportunity" for peace.

Kagame more upbeat

On visits to Belgium and the United States last week, Mr Kagame made his first positive comments towards achieving peace in the DR Congo since the country's former president Laurent Kabila was assassinated on 16 January, talking of a new chance to resolve the conflict.

The UN currently has about 200 military personnel in the DR Congo.

Under the new plan, UN peacekeepers would be deployed as the warring sides pulled their troops back ahead of a full withdrawal.

  • 500 military observers would monitor the ceasefire and disengagement plan
  • Some 400 UN troops would patrol DR Congo's rivers
  • The other UN soldiers would establish bases in Kananga, Kisangani, Mbandaka and Kalemie

Outlining his reasons for refusing to attend the Lusaka summit, Mr Kagame accused Mr Chiluba of facilitating the deployment of several Congolese combat vessels to be used against Rwandan troops in the south-eastern town of Pepa.

He also accused him of allowing his country to serve as a safe haven for soldiers fleeing the fighting.

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See also:

08 Feb 01 | Africa
Rwanda plans Congo pull-back
07 Feb 01 | Africa
Rwanda sets Congo peace terms
07 Feb 01 | Africa
Kabila praises Kagame talks
02 Feb 01 | Africa
Kabila's whirlwind tour
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