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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 01:22 GMT 02:22 UK
DR Congo peace talks in deadlock
Jean-Pierre Bemba of the MLC (centre) with his bodyguards in Sun City
Bemba would have been PM under the new deal
Peace talks on the future of the Democratic Republic of Congo have collapsed as the Kinshasa government and the two main rebel movements failed to find a peaceful settlement to the country's civil war.

After six hours of discussions hosted by South African President Thabo Mbeki in the resort of Sun City, no agreement had been reached on how to establish a government of national unity.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Kabila rejects Mbeki's plan
One of the groups, the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), rejected an agreement between the government and the other, smaller rebel group, unveiled on Wednesday.

Negotiations between the different parties will resume on Friday.

Under the proposed deal, the leader of the Ugandan-backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), Jean-Pierre Bemba, would have become prime minister in a government of national unity with President Joseph Kabila remaining head of state.

But the RCD says the deal violates the agreements which facilitated current peace talks.

Uganda itself has rejected the Bemba-Kabila deal, with its presidential spokesman Onapito Ekmoloit describing it as "an exercise in futility" in an interview with the French news agency AFP on Thursday.

The spokesman for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said any agreement had to keep within the terms of the 1999 Lusaka peace accords.

"We don't mind who comes as leader, provided he is agreed upon by all delegates to the dialogue," he added.

The RCD argues that the talks should focus on a proposal by Mr Mbeki to keep Mr Kabila in his post with reduced powers, give rebel groups control of the army, economy, interior, and hold new elections.

But Mr Kabila's government rejects the South African leader's proposal.

Foreign involvement

The Sun City talks, which began in February, were originally due to end last week but have been extended.

Their aim is to end a civil war that has divided DR Congo into at least three parts for the past four years.

The civil war began in 1998, with an attempt to topple the government of the late Laurent Kabila.

Neighbouring countries stepped in, with Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe on the government's side and Uganda and Rwanda backing the rebels.

A ceasefire was agreed a year ago, but has repeatedly been broken - most recently in the eastern town of Moliro last month.

And on Thursday, the Associated Press news agency reported that unidentified gunmen had fired on a United Nations helicopter at Zongwe in the east of the country.

No one was hurt, but UN observers had earlier reported an escalation in fighting in the area.

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"President Mbeki is facing an uphill struggle"
The BBC's Mark Dummett
"The two former enemies have set up an accord"
See also:

12 Apr 02 | Africa
Hopes rise for DR Congo peace
11 Apr 02 | Africa
DR Congo peace talks extended
16 Mar 02 | Africa
Fighting flares in DR Congo
14 Mar 02 | Africa
Congo peace talks hit by walk-out
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