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Annan Optimistic about Congo Peace


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is optimistic about peace prospects in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On the second day of his visit to the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, Mr. Annan said Namibia has completed its withdrawal of troops and pointed to what he says is other progress in ending a devastating three-year war.

The U.N. secretary-general met for about an hour Sunday with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, whom Western diplomats credit with jump-starting a peace process that had stalled after the signing of a peace agreement in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1999.

Relief agencies say the civil war, which started in 1998, has killed more than two-million people and drained the economy of a country that is rich in diamonds and other minerals. The conflict has involved six nations in the region. Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe have deployed troops in defense of the Kinshasa government, while Rwanda and Uganda entered the conflict in support of the rebels.

In remarks after the meeting, Secretary-General Annan said he sees signs that indicate progress in efforts to end the war. He pointed to events like Uganda's partial pullout of its troops from Congolese territory in recent weeks. Mr. Annan also told reporters in Kinshasa that Namibia has completed the withdrawal of its troops from Congo.

Mr. Annan called on all foreign nations involved to complete their pullout from Congo. He also urged Congolese factions to come together to resolve their differences. He said that by working together, the Congolese would encourage foreign troops to leave.

Congolese government officials met with rebels and members of unarmed opposition groups last month in Botswana. The factions laid down the framework for a national dialogue that is to begin on October 15 in Ethiopia.

Mr. Annan arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday as part of a mission to assess the peace efforts. Aside from visiting Kinshasa, the secretary-general is due to stop in the eastern rebel-held city of Kisangani before traveling to Rwanda on Monday.

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