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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 18:16 GMT
DR Congo talks follow fighting
Presidents Joseph Kabila of DR Congo and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
Kabila and Mugabe are close allies
Regional leaders will hold crisis talks in Zambia to try and end the latest fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a United Nations envoy.

The presidents of those countries with troops in the DR Congo will meet later this week, Amos Namanga Ngongi said.

Rwandan-backed rebels captured the eastern town of Moliro on Saturday, scuppering peace talks in the South African resort of Sun City.

DR Congo has been wracked by a civil war for over three years, involving the armies of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe on the government's side and Uganda and Rwanda backing the rebels.

Rebels from the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) said that government gunboats had fired shells at their positions on Monday but they retained control of the town.

Violation

The fighting "poses a serious danger to the peace process", said Mr Ngongi.

DR Congo rebels
The rebels deny they are being helped by Rwandan soldiers

The offensive against Moliro was the first major cease-fire violation in a year.

The RCD has offered to hand the town over to the UN mission in DR Congo, Monuc, as long as the government promises not to retake it.

France has accused Rwanda of sending up to 10,000 troops to back up rebel troops in the Moliro area - an accusation denied by the RCD.

Foreign Minister Leonard She Okitundu accused Rwanda of deploying its troops on DR Congo soil since 14 March.

Elections

As the UN Security Council appealed for peace, the DR Congo Government pulled out of the Sun City talks in protest.

The war
Broke out in August 1998
Has involved Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia
Estimated death toll from fighting, famine and disease is 2m
These talks - which opened officially last month - had involved representatives of the government, rebels and the political opposition.

They were supposed to find a political solution to DR Congo's many years of instability.

Discussions were supposed to centre on a transition government which would oversee elections.

However the government delegation withdrew from the talks last week following reports of the fighting around Moliro.

See also:

14 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo peace talks hit by walk-out
13 Jan 02 | Africa
Kabila seeks peace at SADC summit
20 Dec 01 | Africa
Death rate soars in DR Congo
16 Mar 02 | Africa
Fighting flares in DR Congo
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