In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the National Congress for the People?s Defense rebel group says it still wants to negotiate peace with the government despite government?s attacks on its stronghold. Forces belonging to President Joseph Kabila?s government attacked rebel positions Monday after the rebels took a strategic town and an army base, forcing out thousands of civilians. But the rebels said they were only defending themselves after government forces attacked their positions.

Rebel fighters reportedly attacked government positions on Sunday, routing army forces in the town of Kikuku before sweeping into Nyanzale, around 100 km (64 miles) north of Goma, and seizing an army base there.

From the border town of Bunagana, rebel spokesman Rene Abande tells reporter Peter Clottey that the government is not ready for peace.

?We have two reactions to that: first is to explain to the national and international community that we need peace talks. The second is to defend ourselves and to defend the people here,? Abande noted.

He denied the rebels were first to attack government positions, which prompted the government to retaliate with heavy military firepower.

?No, we were attacked and we had to defend ourselves. That?s normal. When there are fighters between two fires, people must run. It is understandable. For us there is need for peace talks in Congo because our people need peace, but the problem is that the government does not need peace. They need only fighting. They need only war in east Congo. We have to solve all those political matters politically,? he said.

Abande said the leader of the rebel group, General Laurent Nkunda, wants a mediator to find a way out of the current military actions.

?General Nkunda thinks what we have to do now is to find a mediator, either in the country or internationally, so that all these problems can be solved. He does not understand how this can be accepted by the other party (government), so that is the problem,? Abande pointed out.

He said despite the rebels? protest letters about government attacks, which were sent to the UN mission in Congo and elsewhere, their requests have been turned down.

?We wrote to MONUC  (United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo). We wrote to Mr. Swing, who is the special representative of the secretary general of the UN. But what they had as a response is that they are helping Kabila?s government. And they will continue to help Kabila?s government, even in the wrong way,? he said.

Abande said MONUC is failing its main mission, which he described as to help reconcile Congolese.

 ?We think the UN has lost their mission here to help Congolese to reconcile. We don?t understand why MONUC can decide that it would not help us reconcile,?