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Saturday, November 28, 1998 Published at 18:13 GMT

World: Africa

Congo rivals agree to end hostilities

Kofi Annan (front far right): Urged peace in Africa

The United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, says the Franco-African summit in Paris has ended with an agreement for an immediate end to hostilities in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Peter Biles: "There had been reports of angry exchanges"
He said the Congolese leader, Laurent Kabila, had given a commitment to sign a ceasefire by the middle of December, together with Zimbabwe - Mr Kabila's chief ally - and the presidents of Rwanda and Uganda, who support the rebels trying to oust him from power.

[ image: Laurent Kabila: First talks with enemies]
Laurent Kabila: First talks with enemies
However according to the BBC Paris Correspondent Hugh Schofield the ceasefire is already looking shaky. Both Mr Kabila and the Rwandan leader, Pasteur Bizimungu, said nothing had yet been signed and there should be further discussion at the Organisation of African Unity summit in December.

The initial breakthrough came after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan chaired a head-to-head meeting between the leaders - the first since the rebellion began in Congo last August.

The Congolese rebels - whom Uganda and Rwanda have been supporting - did not take part in the Paris talks.

Kofi Annan: "In this war we may face our greatest challenge"
The talks came at the end of the two-day Franco-African summit which was dominated by continuing fears that the fighting which already involves more than half a dozen countries could turn into a catastrophic regional war.

Congo's President Laurent Kabila had earlier been involved in verbal clashes with some leaders during the 50-nation summit.

Rwanda's President Bizimungu and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni have backed rebels who seized control of part of eastern Congo after fighting started in August. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has provided military support to President Kabila's government.

Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore, currently chairman of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), is reported to have joined Mr Annan at the round-table between the leaders.

France's President and summit host Jacques Chirac is due to meet Mr Kabila later on Saturday.

Annan appeal

During Friday's meetings, Mr Annan made an impassioned plea to fellow Africans to end wars, saying a minority of irresponsible leaders were discrediting the entire continent.

"Conflict in Africa is caused by human action and it can be ended by human action," Mr Annan told the summit.

"Too many leaders, still convinced that might is right, are seeking to resolve differences not by the force of reason but by the power of the gun."

"In this war, we may well face our greatest challenge.

"In the Congo as everywhere, what is needed is for all parties irrevocably to choose peace and compromise, turning their backs on violence and conflicts," he said.

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