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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
DRC rebels reluctant to pull-back
UN troops from Uruguay
UN troops have been asked to protect the local population
The leader of one of the Congolese rebel movements has refused to give an assurance that his troops will pull back from the front-line in compliance with a peace treaty.

Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Congolese Liberation Front would not confirm to a delegation of United Nations ambassadors that his soldiers would disengage.

Jean-Pierre Bemba
Jean-Pierre Bemba is reluctant to give any assurances
UN peacekeepers arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week to help monitor a 15 km withdrawal that was agreed by all the warring parties last December.

Mr Bemba said that he was concerned for the safety of the local population after his troops had left and wanted the UN to protect them.

The two-and-a-half year conflict in the DRC has seen Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia backing the Kinshasa government against a rebel insurgency supported by Uganda and Rwanda.

A peace agreement was signed in Zambia in 1999 but it is only since the death of DRC President Laurent Kabila that progress has been made in its implementation.

The agreed 15 km retreat is intended as the first stage in the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

Problems

The UN, however, has admitted that some armies have been slow to comply.

In response to Mr Bemba's comments UK Ambassador to Kinshasa James Atkinson said that he hoped "that he will reflect carefully on our demands".

A representative from the UN mission in the DRC (Monuc) told Mr Bemba that its role in the country was to monitor the troop withdrawal rather than in protect the local population.

Meanwhile, the authorities in Zimbabwe have said that troops allied to the Kinshasa government have pulled back the required 15 km.

Zimbabwean army spokesman Mbonisi Gatsheni denied reports that the armies had failed to comply.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Africa
DR Congo's troubled history
26 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Democratic Republic of Congo
21 Feb 01 | Africa
UN finds Congo child soldiers
23 Feb 01 | Africa
Congo pull-back plan welcomed
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