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Eastern Congolese Rebels Said to Make New Gains


Rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo said they have seized new territory, despite a ceasefire promise made by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Clashes between Congolese government troops and forces of rebel leader Laurent Nkunda continued as aid workers tried to deliver food in the face of a deteriorating humanitarian situation in eastern Democratic Congo.

United Nations officials said fighting had broken out in Riwindi, 125 kilometers north of Goma. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Nkunda pledged to observe a ceasefire during a meeting Sunday with U.N. special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, who expressed optimism a solution could be found to the crisis.

"There must be concrete action that is visible and people see and to me the concrete action is that the ceasefire must be seen to be holding and to be durable. The issue of addressing the humanitarian crisis must be sustained and nothing should hinder that," he said.

Obsanjo earlier met with Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

The fighting displaced 250,000 people and disrupted relief efforts.

But World Food Program Spokesman Marcu Prior announced a convoy was able to deliver food to 12,000 people in the frontline area north of Goma.

"This is vitally needed because before the fighting there was 60,000, at least, people living displaced here and dependent on WFP for their food needs, so we needed to get back here as quickly as we could," said Prior.

The fighting broke out in August following a two-year lull. The following month, Nkunda withdrew from the Goma peace accord between the Congolese government and several-dozen combatant groups.

He said his forces were being attacked by government troops and remnants of Rwandan Hutu militias that fled to eastern Congo after the 1994 genocide. He accused the U.N. mission MONUC of lacking neutrality, a charge MONUC denies.

The latest fighting caused fears of renewed civil war as was seen in the late 1990s in which several million Congolese died.

The European Union and the Southern African Economic Community, SADC, said they were studying the possibility of sending troops to Congo, but wanted other measures taken first.

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