In the Democratic republic of Congo, the rebel National Congress for the People?s Defense (NCPD) says it is committed to having peace negotiations with President Joseph Kabila?s government. This comes after the rebels said Wednesday they would send some of their forces to be integrated into the national army, a move they describe as good will towards finding a long lasting peace in violence-prone North Kivu province.

But United Nations officials are reportedly reacting cautiously to the statement, since previous statements of goodwill have been void of action.

Rene Abande is the spokesman for the rebels. From the capital, Kinshasa he tells reporter Peter Clottey that they will defend themselves if President Kabila?s government refuses to come to the negotiating table.

?We decided to send those men to be integrated to the national army, and we are waiting see what the government would do by way of the peace talks. So, we hope there would be peace talks, and we want to show our good will,? Abande pointed out.

He described as baseless and government propaganda speculation that some of the rebels have deserted and surrendered to the government.

?That?s not true! We have not surrendered. That is government propaganda. We refute that, and we are the military capacity to continue to defend ourselves and our population, but decided to send some men for integration in the interest of peace. But we are still able to defend ourselves. But until now, they are trying to show to the international community that we have surrendered. But that is not true,? he said.

Abande said the rebels are committed to finding peace, but warned the violence would escalate if President Kabila?s government refuses to come to the negotiating table.

?We have shown to both the local and international community of our vision of peace, but if the government would continue to refuse our move, there would happen more and more problems and more of the Interhamwe (rebels) from Rwanda. And we think the problem will remain and that there would not be a solution to the crisis,? Abande noted.

He said it is regrettable that President Kabila?s government has shown little or no interest in the rebels? attempt to resolve the crisis in North Kivu province.

?That is very unfortunate. Until now, the government has not shown any sign of good will. But our partners now are MONUC. But we are still waiting for the government. We hope the government would understand that we have made substantial effort (towards peace). But if they don?t want it, we are able to defend ourselves and to defend the people,? he said.