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D-R-Congo Government, Rebels Reach Withdrawal Agreement - 2002-03-21

The government and a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to withdraw their forces from several strategic towns to preserve a 10-month old ceasefire agreement.

The Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy says it will pull back from the eastern towns of Moliro and Pweto, which it seized last week. The government has agreed to withdraw from the towns of Kayaya and Yayama. The two sides met Wednesday and Thursday in Lusaka, Zambia.

Under the agreement, the factions were also expected to resume talks on Congo's future. The government had suspended its participation in the so-called Inter-Congolese Dialogue last week in light of the fighting around Moliro.

The United Nations had called the rebel attack on Moliro a major violation of a ceasefire monitored by the world body. France's U-N envoy had directly accused Rwanda of leading the attack on the eastern Congolese town, but Rwanda has denied the accusation.

Congo is in the midst of a three-and-one-half year war that involves six countries and may have claimed as many as three million lives.

(AP, AFP, Reuters)