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UN Envoy Says Congo Rebels Delaying Peace Talks


The mediator at peace talks to end the conflict in eastern Congo says the negotiations have stalled because the rebel delegation has no power to make decisions.

U.N. envoy, and former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, said the talks cannot go forward because, at every stage, the rebels say they need to confer with their leaders. Obasanjo said the talks in Nairobi, Kenya also are being hampered by rebel attempts to broaden the discussion to include the whole of the Democratic Republic of Congo, not just the east.

He said the talks have not collapsed, but he said he is sending a team to meet rebel leader Laurent Nkunda in Congo to try to solve the problems.

Mr. Obasanjo is mediating low-level negotiations between the Congolese government and eastern rebels in the hopes of laying the ground work for higher-level talks.

Mr. Obasanjo said Tuesday he hopes more substantive talks will begin before December 25.

The U.N.-sponsored talks are aimed at ending fighting that has displaced a quarter-million people in Congo's North Kivu province since August.

In Brussels Wednesday, European Union countries continued discussions on a U.N. request to send troops to eastern Congo. Belgium's Defense Minister Pieter De Crem said his country, the former colonial power in Congo, would be willing to provide up to 500 soldiers.

Belgium's Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said he is confident a European force can be formed, although officials from other European countries still seemed reluctant.

Ethnic Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda has said he wants high-level direct talks with Congo's government to discuss the persecution of Tutsi communities by government soldiers, militias and Hutu fighters from Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Nkunda started his latest offensive in October, gaining territory around the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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