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Wednesday, September 2, 1998 Published at 06:07 GMT 07:07 UK

World: Africa

Annan in talks to end Congo fighting

Rebels have been refused safe passage back to Goma in the east

The BBC's Greg Barrow reports from the summit in Durban
The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan has held a meeting with President Kabila after the Congolese leader made a surprise appearance at the Non-Aligned Movement summit of developing nations.

The Congolese President, Laurent Kabila, called for the immediate withdrawal of Ugandan and Rwandan troops from Congo.

[ image: Rebel prisoners of war held in Kinshasa]
Rebel prisoners of war held in Kinshasa
In his address, he said the world had forgotten Congo, and added: "At this very moment, my country fellows in occupied territory are being assassinated, women are being raped and children are being used as cannon fodder."
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan discusses his meeting with President Kabila at the Non-Aligned Movement summit

The secretary-general said that President Kabila was flying back to the Congo before a planned discussion on the situation in the Congo with the leaders of Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Uganda and Rwanda, all of whom are involved, directly or indirectly, in the conflict.

In an interview with the BBC, the UN secretary-general discussed President Kabila's year in government.

"Perhaps a greater effort should have been made on his part to sustain the international support which has been there since the beginning," he said.

At the conference, Mr Annan has discussed the fighting with South African President Nelson Mandela, who has tried but so far failed to broker a peace settlement.

The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire, and for the withdrawal of all foreign forces.

It described the fighting as a serious threat to regional peace and security.

Claims and counter-claims

But in Congo the two sides show no sign of laying down their arms.

BBC's Greg Barrow in Durban: Congolese want complete withdrawal of Rwandan, Ugandan troops
The Congolese Government says its forces have surrounded thousands of rebels whose attempt to seize the capital, Kinshasa, had failed.

A government minister, Mwanze Kongolo, said the rebels would not be allowed to withdraw from western Congo until they handed over their weapons.

Rebel leaders deny the government claims and say they are continuing their push into President Kabila's home province of Katanga.

They say they are also advancing on the town of Kindu, further north, which is an important military base.

The BBC's East Africa correspondent Kathy Jenkins, reporting from Goma, in rebel-held territory, said many people fear another cycle of violence and they do not know whether the rebel leaders represent an improvement on President Kabila.

Rwanda and Uganda accused

Mr Kongolo accused Rwanda and Uganda - Congo's eastern neighbours - of leading the rebellion.

He said troops from both countries were in Congo, attacking civilians and destroying property.

In late August, a senior Ugandan military official said Ugandan forces are operating deep inside Congo to defend his country's national interests.

Rwandan authorities continue to deny involvement in the conflict, but a number of prisoners of war identifying themselves as Rwandan troops have been presented to the press by officials in Kinshasa.

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