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Eastern Congo Braces for More Fighting


The situation in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is reported to be tense as a government deadline for rebel fighters to join the army draws near.

President Joseph Kabila has given fighters loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda until the end of Monday to lay down their weapons. Rebels and foreign observers have said they expect the army to attack soon after the deadline.

On Sunday, Nkunda told British radio that more talks are necessary before his troops can be integrated into the army.

However, a U.N.-sponsored radio station, Radio Okapi, says at least 157 of Nkunda's fighters have come over to the government side.

President Kabila is in North Kivu province, where the army and Nkunda's forces fought heavy gunbattles last week.

A spokesman says the president went to North Kivu on Sunday to assess the military and humanitarian situation. Weeks of fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in the region.

The head of the U.N. mission in Congo, William Lacy Swing, traveled to North Kivu today and is expected to meet with the Conglese president.

Congo's army has been fighting Nkunda's forces since 2004 as part of efforts to assert control over the country's volatile east. Militias and rebel groups remain active in the region, more than four years after the end of Congo's brutal civil war.

Nkunda has said his forces are protecting Congo's minority Tutsi population. He accuses the Conglese government of collaborating with Hutu rebels who entered the area after Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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