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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK

World: Africa

African armies urged to quit Congo

Congolese troops have welcomed foreign help

The United States has repeated its call for foreign military forces to withdraw from the Democratic Republic of Congo as fears grow of a wider regional conflict.

US State Department spokesman James Foley made the call to Angola and Zimbabwe as the Congolese government of Laurent Kabila continued to battle against a three week rebellion.

Eileen Whelan: "Kinhasa without power or water"
"We've made crystal clear that we believe strongly in the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of Congo, that foreign forces ought not to be there," he said.

The latest American statement follows reports that the Angolan army has made further advances against rebel positions west of the capital, Kinshasa.

The Angolan government has officially confirmed that it is providing military assistance for the Congolese government.

[ image: Up to 600 Zimbabwean troops have arrived in Kinshasa]
Up to 600 Zimbabwean troops have arrived in Kinshasa
In a brief statement read on Angolan national radio and television, the government said they became involved in the crisis in order that a political solution to Congo's problems can be found.

The Congolese government has also revealed that Zimbabwean troops have arrived in Kinshasa to fight alongside President Kabila's forces.

The Congolese Justice Minister, Mwenze Kongolo, said Zimbabwean and Angolan troops had been invited to help the government.

"As for the Rwandans and the Ugandans they are aggressors so they are here not by our choice," he said.

Central African war

Echoing US fears of a war engulfing the region, African leaders urged the rebels and forces loyal to President Kabila to call a truce.

Africa specialist, Cameron Duodu: Acceptance of ceasefire is only for political purposes
On Sunday, both sides welcomed ceasefire proposals drawn up by regional leaders meeting in South Africa under the auspices of the 14-member Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). But a government spokesman later said the rebels must first withdraw.

[ image: Kinshasa's water supplies are running low]
Kinshasa's water supplies are running low
The South African President, Nelson Mandela, and the Organisation of African Unity are discussing proposals for a meeting to include all sides in the conflict.

Mr Mandela said he was confident a ceasefire could be reached.

Rwanda and Uganda, which attended the SADC summit as observers and which have been accused by Congo of supporting the rebels, also put their names to the peace plea.

Rebel defeat

The Portuguese news agency, quoting Angolan military sources, said that Angolan troops had forced rebels out of the ports of Moanda and Banana, situated on Congo's Atlantic coast.

The unconfirmed reports said that both towns fell on Sunday.

Roger Hearing with the latest report from Kinshasa
Earlier, both sides acknowledged that the rebels had lost control of the nearby military airbase at Kitona after fierce fighting, the rebels' first major defeat.

But despite losing the base, which had been used to fly in troops and supplies for the advance on Kinshasa, the rebels have made gains in eastern Congo, capturing the third biggest city, Kisangani.

Zimbabwean support

Meanwhile, a senior Zimbabwean government source said a Zimbabwean force of up to 600 special troops had arrived in Kinshasa.

He said the rebels were now trapped between the Zimbabweans and Angolan troops in the south-west, and advised them to surrender.

The immediate goals of the pro-Kabila troops based in the capital appear to be to restore power and safeguard access to the Atlantic Ocean.

As the fighting continues, life for civilians in Kinshasa is becoming increasingly difficult.

Imported goods are no longer reaching the city because the rebels control key ports and prices have risen sharply as residents stock up on food.

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