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Congo, Mali to Dominate US-AU Talks in Washington

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks out with then African Union Chair-Designate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma after their meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, Aug. 7, 2012.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks out with then African Union Chair-Designate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma after their meeting in Pretoria, South Africa, Aug. 7, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma meet in Washington Wednesday for talks that are expected to focus on rebels in eastern Congo and terrorists in northern Mali. 
 
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson will join Wednesday's meetings at the State Department, having just returned from talks with Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni about ending a rebellion in eastern Congo.
 
Fighters in a group known as M23 have taken control of the provincial capital of Goma near the border with Rwanda. During his trip, Ambassador Carson met with Rwanda's foreign minister but not with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Mr. Kagame  is widely thought to be backing the rebels, a charge his government denies.
 
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Secretary Clinton and AU Chair Zuma are working for an end to the fighting and humanitarian access for those displaced.
 
"We want to see Rwanda use its influence, if it has it, with the M23 to get a cease-fire, get a rollback to the July 7th lines, and to participate actively in a conversation among Museveni, Kabila, Kagame on how to deal with the political and economic grievances in Eastern Congo," she said. 
 
The Obama administration has been reluctant to directly implicate Rwanda in M23 activities. But asked directly about Kigali's support for the group, Nuland says there is no doubt.
 
"No. I mean, obviously it has influence with M23, and there has also been concern, as you know, about material support," she said. 
 
A June U.N. report accused senior Rwandan defense officials of backing the group, prompting the United States to suspend some military assistance to the Kagame government.
 
In her talks with Zuma, Nuland says Clinton also will discuss West African plans for an intervention force in Mali, where Tuareg rebels and al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists control most of the north of the country.
 
Nuland says they will compare notes on what outside support is needed for that force, and how Bamako's transitional civilian government can help bridge the political divide.
 
"In Mali we've talked a lot about trying to split off moderate Tuaregs, get them into a conversation with the interim government about a way forward that meets the human, economic and political needs of that population so that they are not drawn to terror, so they are not drawn to separatism. So that will be part of the conversation as well," she said. 
 
Nuland says Clinton and Zuma also will discuss Somalia, where a new government has taken charge in Mogadishu after an East African intervention force regained ground lost to Islamic militants.
 

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