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Saturday, November 21, 1998 Published at 11:33 GMT

World: Africa

Inconclusive end to Congo talks

Rebels want face-to-face talks with President Kabila

Talks to end the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo have broken up without final agreement, although rebels say they have accepted in principle a cease-fire.

Greg Barrow reports on the outcome
The talks, held in the Botswanan capital, Gaborone, discussed a draft cease-fire document which was drawn up last month.

However, there was no final agreement on the details of the document.

Correspondent Greg Barrow, who is in Gaborone, says the rebels submitted a number of changes at the last minute.

They wanted:

  • inclusion as an official delegation at future talks.

  • direct talks with President Laurent Kabila.

  • Sudan and Chad to be included in the list of countries supporting Mr Kabila.

The talks, which started on Friday, resumed on Saturday but then broke up after less than an hour.

Difficult discussions

Greg Barrow quotes diplomats as saying they were frustrated by the slow pace of progress.

On Friday, the rebel delegation walked out of the talks, saying that little had been achieved in their first day of meetings.

"The only thing we've agreed upon is the need for peace in Congo," said rebel leader Bizima Karaha.

Mr Karaha, the former foreign minister in President Laurent Kabila's government, warned earlier that the president would be toppled in the same way as his predecessor, the late President Mobutu, if he continues to refuse to negotiate with the rebels.

[ image: The conflict could turn into a regional war]
The conflict could turn into a regional war
President Laurent Kabila's government has not attended the talks, which involve Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, and representatives of the UN, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

The meeting was being seen as a chance for the rebels to respond to international cease-fire proposals.

Regional complications

President Kabila does not accept that he is fighting against a rebellion and insists that his country has been invaded by Rwanda and Uganda - countries which have provided military support for the rebellion.

Earlier in November, the South African government persuaded Rwanda to join Uganda in publicly admitting that it had troops on Congolese soil.

It was hoped that this would pave the way for peace talks between President Kabila and his Rwandan and Ugandan counterparts.

Instead, the Congolese government used the opportunity to accuse South Africa, which organised the talks, of favouring the cause of the rebels.

The outcome of the talks in Gaborone is to be considered by President Chiluba of Zambia, who is leading the latest peace initiative over Congo.

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