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Fresh Fighting Erupts in DRC Between Rival Rebel Factions - 2003-06-04

While an international force prepares to land in the war-torn northeastern Congo town of Bunia, new fighting has broken out farther south between rival rebel factions involved in the Congolese peace process.

The fighting is in North Kivu province, 250 kilometers south of Bunia, near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda.

The fighting around the town of Lubero involves troops of the country's main rebel group, Rally for Congolese Democracy, or RCD-Goma, and its splinter group RCD-ML, which is allied with the government.

The RCD-ML claims to have captured Rwandan soldiers who were working with the RCD-Goma. Officials of RCD-Goma accuse RCD-ML of being backed by government forces as well as Hutu extremists that were involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Although both sides vehemently deny the accusations, senior U.N. military officers have confirmed the presence of forces loyal to the two groups operating north of Lubero, which violates their ceasefire.

The new fighting comes as an international force is expected in northeastern Congo within a few days to try to end brutal attacks by rival militias on civilians and aid workers in and around Bunia.

The continuing violence is making peace negotiations more difficult. RCD-Goma is preparing to resume talks with the government and other rebel factions about control of the military in a proposed power sharing government. The groups reached a peace agreement last year, but disputes over the make-up of the transitional government are continuing to delay its implementation.