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The BBC's Helen Vesperini
"The joint rebel statement slams what it calls the bias shown by certain Security Council members."
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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 06:38 GMT 07:38 UK
UN seeks peace for DR Congo
UN Security Council delegation
The UN hopes to establish a timetable for troop withdrawals
A high-ranking United Nations delegation is holding talks in Zambia in an attempt to advance the peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The delegation, led by French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, is to meet the signatories of the original peace accord, signed in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, in 1999.

The aim is to agree a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops fighting in Congo, disarm the many militias roaming the country and establish a transitional authority to govern the country, pending elections.

DR Congo President, Joseph Kabila
Joseph Kabila has called for more UN troops
The war in DR Congo has drawn in a number of outside countries, with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda backing rebel movements while Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola have been on the side of the government in Kinshasa.

On Monday, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, called for the deployment of 20,000 UN troops to help restore peace in his country - the current contingent is under 2,000-strong.

Fading optimism

But Mr Levitte said that number was adequate for the task.

"There is enough of a contingent to monitor the disengagement of forces, and we hope that what has been signed will be implemented - a deal is a deal," he said.

The optimism that had initially surrounded the trip appears to have faded following accusations that the Kinshasa government and its allies levelled at their opponents over the weekend, during the UN delegation's visit to the Congolese capital.

The president of Namibia, speaking on behalf of the Kinshasa allies, accused Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi of having killed 2.5 million people in DR Congo.

Doubts over peace process

Uganda dismissed the allegations as crazy. And Rwanda is now saying it always doubted that Kinshasa was genuine about wanting to further the peace process.

It also questions how the aid agency, the International Rescue Committee, which first floated the 2.5 million dead figure, arrived at that total.

The agency said most of the deaths were from disease and starvation, rather than as a direct result of fighting.

The Goma rebels, who control the east of the country, with the backing of Rwanda, say they plan to respond jointly to the allegation, with Jean-Pierre Benba's Ugandan rebel movement, that controls the north and north-east of Congo.

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See also:

20 May 01 | Africa
UN warned of DR Congo 'genocide'
18 Jan 01 | Business
Congo economy 'ravaged' by conflict
18 May 01 | Africa
Foreign workers abducted in Congo
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