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Congo, M23 Rebels Set to Sign Peace Deal

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2012 file photo, M23 rebels withdraw from the Masisi and Sake areas in the eastern Congo town of Sake, some 27 kms west of Goma, Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is set to sign a peace deal with M23 rebels, a week after the group said it was halting its fighting to pursue its goals through political means.

The signing is taking place in neighboring Uganda, which has hosted peace talks between Congo and M23. The agreement is expected to detail the process for demobilizing rebel fighters, with some likely to be integrated into the Congolese army.

Parties from both sides, along with foreign observers, have arrived for the signing ceremony in the Ugandan city of Entebbe.

The United Nations special envoy for the region, Mary Robinson, said Sunday the peace deal is an important step toward peace.

Eastern Congo has been ravaged by years of fighting between the government and various rebel groups, often competing for control of the area's rich mines.

Robinson said the focus will now shift to defeating other armed groups there, particularly the Rwandan Hutu group FDLR.

The Congolese army is backed by a 3,000-soldier U.N. "intervention brigade," authorized to undertake offensive operations against the rebels.

They seized the last of M23's strongholds in North Kivu province last week, leading to the group announcing the end of the rebellion it launched in April 2012.

Uganda is holding M23's military chief, Sultani Makenga, who crossed the border last week along with at least 1,500 rebel fighters.

M23 consists of fighters who joined the Congolese army in a 2009 peace deal but later defected after complaining of poor treatment.

Congo has accused neighboring Rwanda and Uganda of supporting M23, an allegation both countries deny.