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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 22:18 GMT 23:18 UK
Deal divides DR Congo groups
South African President Thabo Mbeki, right, and Congolese Minister for Security Mwenze Kongolo
Thabo Mbeki, right, has failed to get all parties to agree
Political parties and civil groups from the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday joined a deal between the Kinshasa government and Ugandan-backed rebels to create a transitional government.

But the pact, signed by the government and the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC) on Wednesday, effectively leaves the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) out in the cold.

This raises fears that a four-year-old war in DR Congo will reignite, with changed alliances.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Kabila accepted a plan for a transitional government
The BBC's Mark Dummett said the lack of agreement with the RCD - the biggest rebel group - meant that the talks at the South African resort of Sun City had failed.

United Nations observers had earlier reported an escalation in fighting in the Zongwe area in the east of the country, where unidentified gunmen had reportedly fired on a UN helicopter on Thursday.

The deal will see President Joseph Kabila remain as head of state and install MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba as prime minister, a new post.

Accord dismissed

Talks facilitator Sir Ketumile Masire, former president of Botswana, dismissed the accord as a "private meeting" outside the scope of the inter-Congolese dialogue.

Adolphe Onusumba, the leader of the RCD, angrily rejected the agreement.

But MLC Secretary General Olivier Kamitatu, said: "It is a partial solution, but it means that from today there will be peace for millions of Congolese people. For us, the dialogue is over."

The South African president, Thabo Mbeki, made a last-minute effort to resolve the deadlock in the talks, which were meant to end on Thursday.

He presided over a full meeting of opposing groups on Friday to discuss alternatives to the government-MLC agreement.

The talks, sponsored by the South African Government and the European Union, are aimed at working out political, economic and military structures under a transitional government, ahead of elections.

The talks have been going on for eight weeks and involve more than 360 delegates.

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

Neighbours

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.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Dummett
"The dialogue has failed to end the war"
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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