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UN Envoy Says Nkunda Wants Meeting with DRC Government

The U.N.'s special envoy for the conflict in Congo says he has met with rebel commander Laurent Nkunda and that the renegade general wants dialogue with the government. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Former Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo was appointed earlier this month as a United Nations facilitator among the parties in the conflict in eastern Congo. A quarter of a million people have been displaced in the region since August, when the latest round of fighting between the rebels and the government began.

Obasanjo is just back from visiting the leaders of the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring Rwanda as well other regional leaders and rebel general Laurent Nkunda.

The envoy came to U.N. headquarters on Monday to brief Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his meetings.

He told reporters that General Nkunda wants to meet with the government to discuss political, economic and security issues. He said the rebel leader's demands include integrating his fighters into the national army. He also wants guarantees for the protection of minority groups in the DRC. Obasanjo added that the general wants to be allowed to remain a career soldier.

"My impression is that he has made demands that I do not consider outrageous," said Olesegun Obasanjo. "A demand that the government of Democratic Republic of Congo can meet him or his side and iron out in a dialogue. And the government of Democratic Republic of Congo is not adverse to such a dialogue."

Obasanjo says he does not believe President Joseph Kabila is opposed to the idea of dialogue with the rebels, despite his repeated public refusals to talk with them.

"President Kabila did not tell me - and I have said that three times already - he did not tell me that he will not have his government talking with Nkunda," he said. "He did not tell me that."

Obasanjo said he is returning to Kinshasa for a second round of talks that will begin on Friday. He said his main goal is to keep the momentum going and to arrange a meeting between the government and Nkunda's side.