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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 June 2006, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Two DR Congo peacekeepers freed
UN troops in DR Congo
The UN is helping the army flush out rebels in the east
Two of the seven United Nations peacekeepers kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of Congo by rebels have been released, the UN says.

The two Nepalese soldiers are "in good health" a UN spokesman says.

They were seized a month ago during an operation to disarm militias in the volatile north-eastern Ituri region.

There are some 17,000 UN peacekeepers in DR Congo ahead of the first multi-party elections in 40 years, due to be held next month.

Meanwhile, opposition parties have criticised President Joseph Kabila for not keeping a pledge to meet them in the capital, Kinshasa and instead campaigning in the east.

The opposition say there will be a legal vacuum between 30 June, when they say the existing constitution runs out and 20 July, when the elections are due.

The UN is trying to secure the release of the other peacekeepers, said Carmine Camerini, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force (Monuc) in the Ituri capital, Bunia.

A UN source told the Reuters news agency that the release followed the involvement of MPs from the same Lendu community as Peter Karim's FNI group, which seized the UN troops.

"They [the MPs] made it clear that it would be the Lendu community that would lose out if this continued," the source said.

The BBC's Arnaud Zajtman in Kinshasa says the UN has stressed that no ransom was paid for the Nepalese troops.

Militias from the rival Lendu and Hema communities have been battling for control of Ituri's rich gold deposits for several years.

Armed men still roam parts of eastern DR Congo three years after the official end of the five-year conflict.

The elections are intended to end a post-war transitional period, with the government made up of various warring factions.

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