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Rwandan, Congo Leaders to Meet


The presidents of Congo and Rwanda could meet soon to calm renewed tensions between the neighboring countries, according to presidential aides. However, despite calls for calm from across the world, Rwanda repeated its threat to send troops into Eastern Congo to hunt down Hutu rebels.

Government sources in Kinshasa said Thursday that Congo's president, Joseph Kabila, and Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, would probably meet soon in Burkina Faso.

The presidents would meet to try and diffuse tensions that threatened to reignite conflict in Africa's Great Lakes region after Rwanda warned the United Nations and Kinshasa that it is ready to send soldiers back into Congo to crush Hutu rebels Kigali says want to attack Rwanda.

There has been no confirmation of the meeting, but diplomats and U.N. officials who have been calling for restraint, say such a meeting would help to restore confidence between the countries' leaders and increase the chances of avoiding further conflict.

Coming at the end of a visit to the region, the U.N. Security Council mission warned Rwanda against taking any action that violates international law, undermines the region's fragile stability, or jeopardizes the transition process supported by the international community.

But as the leaders made their way to West Africa, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and two of his ministers repeated the threat to enter Congo to take out selected targets among the Hutu rebels unless they were neutralized.

The rebels, who are generally known as the FDLR, are largely made up of the former Rwandan army and militiamen that took part in the 1994 genocide, killing some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus before fleeing to eastern Congo.

Rwanda has since invaded Congo twice, both times ostensibly to defeat the rebels. The last invasion in 1998 was one of the triggers for Congo's five year war that involved five neighboring countries and killed three million people.

The United Nations has repatriated several thousand of the combatants, but 10,000 are thought to remain.

And Rwanda says it now believes that neither the Congolese government nor the United Nations is capable of completing the job, so it is up to Kigali to act before the rebels attack Rwanda.

But observers say the rebels are no longer a military threat to Rwanda, and Rwanda is more interested in maintaining a political, economic and military presence in the mineral-rich eastern corner of Congo.

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