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Leading Congo Opposition Party Breaks Off Talks With Kabila

FILE - Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi (front), president of the DRC's UDPS party, attends the 14th Francophonie Summit in Kinshasa, DRC.
FILE - Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi (front), president of the DRC's UDPS party, attends the 14th Francophonie Summit in Kinshasa, DRC.

Democratic Republic of Congo's leading opposition party said on Sunday it was breaking off talks with representatives of President Joseph Kabila, leaving the two sides deadlocked ahead of next year's presidential election.

Delegates representing the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and Kabila had been meeting in Europe to discuss conditions for a national dialogue to smooth the way for the November 2016 election in which Kabila is ineligible to stand.

Critics accuse Kabila, who took power in 2001 after his father's assassination, of trying to stay in office beyond the end of his second elected term next year in violation of the constitution.

UDPS President Etienne Tshisekedi issued a statement late Sunday from Brussels, where he has been receiving medical treatment since August 2014, saying the negotiations had failed.

The UDPS "has asked its delegates to withdraw immediately from the negotiating table," said Tshisekedi, who lost to Kabila in a 2011 election marred by fraud.

Neither the statement nor UDPS Secretary-General Bruno Mavungu, reached by telephone, gave a reason for the breakdown.

Tshisekedi said he hoped differences over upcoming elections still could be resolved through dialogue. The opposition has dismissed the packed calendar of more than a dozen local, provincial and national elections in the next 14 months as a ploy to delay the presidential vote.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters he had no reaction because the meaning of Tshisekedi's statement was not clear.

Kabila has refused to comment publicly on his political future, although Mende has said he intends to respect the constitution.

The presidential election, which could herald Congo's first ever peaceful transition of power, is in increasing doubt after the constitutional court last week ordered the election commission to revisit the calendar, saying that budgetary and political constraints have made it untenable.

Calls by Kabila's allies for a national dialogue were rejected by most of the rest of the opposition, who feared the president would try to strike a deal with part of the opposition to help extend his time in power.

A coalition of opposition parties has called for a mass demonstration in the capital, Kinshasa, on Tuesday to demand that Kabila step down next year. Mavungu said the UDPS would not be participating.

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