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Bemba Pulls Out of Congo Peace Talks

One of the main Congolese rebel leaders said Tuesday he will not attend a peace conference set to begin next week to work on ending Africa's bloodiest conflict.

The leader of the Congolese Liberation Movement, Jean-Pierre Bemba, has pulled out of the peace talks scheduled to begin next Monday in Sun City, South Africa.

Mr. Bemba has told a news conference in Paris that opposition groups will not be adequately represented, and therefore the meeting "has already failed."

Mr. Bemba claims that many of the political parties invited to the South Africa talks are not true opposition groups, but actually supporters of the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila.

The other main rebel group, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy, says it will go to the South Africa talks.

Still, the Bemba pullout deals a serious blow to international efforts to revive what is called the "Inter-Congolese Dialogue" on ending a four-year war that has claimed more than two million lives.

The British and French foreign ministers led a diplomatic mission to central Africa nations last month aimed at restoring momentum to the stalled peace accords signed in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1999.

The European officials met Mr. Bemba in Kampala, Uganda, where the government backs the Congolese Liberation Movement.

Following those talks, Mr. Bemba told VOA he would be willing to meet President Kabila if the discussions focused on how to arrange new elections.

President Kabila took office 13 months ago following the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila. He has relied on military support from Zimbabwe and Angola to maintain power.

President Kabila has said Ugandan and Rwandan troops must leave eastern Congo before he will discuss sharing power with the rebels. Uganda and Rwanda say they will not pullout until their border security concerns are met.