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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Great Lakes peace mission starts
South African President Thabo Mbeki, right, and Congolese Minister for Security Mwenze Kongolo
Thabo Mbeki (r) failed to get an agreement during weeks of Congolese talks
A team of diplomats representing the UN security council has begun an eight nation tour of central Africa in an attempt to strengthen peace efforts in the troubled Great Lakes region.

The mission, led by the French ambassador to the UN Jean-David Levitte, comes just days after the end of the latest Congolese peace talks in South Africa.

On Monday, the diplomats are due to meet President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, before travelling to Zimbabwe and then Kinshasa.

This mission is intended to re-focus attention on the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has sucked in several African armies and which is proving so difficult to stop.

At the talks in South Africa, a deal was signed between the Congolese Government and Ugandan-backed rebels from the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC).

However, the largest rebel group - the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy - has condemned the agreement and promptly announced its own alliance with civilian opposition parties based in Kinshasa.

Diverse range

Over the week-end, representatives of the MLC arrived in Kinshasa to thrash out some of the details.

But MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is set to become prime minister, remained in his base in the north-eastern town of Gbadolite.

DR Congo President Joseph Kabila
Kabila is hoping to stay on as president

The team of diplomats, from a diverse range of powerful and not-so-powerful countries, will not only visit DR Congo - but also several of its neighbours who are involved in the conflict.

These include Zimbabwe, Angola, Rwanda and Uganda.

Although a ceasefire agreement was signed in 1999, and there are now UN peacekeeping troops in DR Congo, sporadic fighting has continued.

Last week, talks in South Africa which were intended to unite the Congolese Government and all the factions failed to achieve a breakthrough.

This mission hopes it can push all sides towards an inclusive agreement.

It will also travel to Burundi, where fighting between the army and rebels has continued, despite the recent formation of a government of a national unity.

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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