The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) says it is hopeful peace can be restored in the restive North Kivu province. MONUC said the UN Special Envoy to the country is working hard to end the fierce clashes between the national army and the National Congress for the Defense of People (CNDP) rebel group. This comes after President Joseph Kabila's government Tuesday described demands by renegade army General Laurent Nkunda for direct talks with the government as impossible. Madnoudje Mounoubai is the spokesman for MONUC. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Kinshasa that the United Nations wants both the government and the rebels to begin talking to each other to end the instability in the country.

"What I know is that the UN is still continuing in its effort to get all the parties together to talk to each other. President Obasanjo is scheduled to come back to the region, and he would be here probably this weekend and he would have a new round of talks with President Kabila. And he would also to go to Goma and eventually also meet Nkunda. So, we think these are good signs because the talks are still on and President Obasanjo is going to get all the parties together to try to do something. So, there is till hope," Mounoubai said.

He disagreed that the stance taken by Kinshasa not to have direct talks with the renegade army general would complicate UN efforts at brokering peace in the restive region.

"I don't know what position you are referring to, but if President Kabila has agreed that Mr. Obasanjo can come back to the country, I think this is already a good sign. And he has already had a meeting scheduled; they are going to meet and they are going to talk. So, it is a negotiation and negotiations are never easy and we have to trust the special envoy of the secretary general (of the UN). We know that he is a seasoned diplomat and he would be able to iron out all the differences that might exist for the time being and at the end of the day something good would come out of it," he said.

Mounoubai said the United Nations is doing all it can to alleviate the suffering of those adversely affected by the clashes between the national army and the rebels.

"We can understand the frustration of the people because in most areas we are probably the only organized force to give them assistance and protection. So, its natural I would say for them to expect more from MONUC. But we are doing our best wherever we are, we are patrolling the area and we are giving protection to those people that are under our area I would say of responsibility. But we need the cooperation of all parties involved for this ceasefire to hold and to give chance to the talks that is going to start here," Mounoubai pointed out.

UN Special Envoy to the DRC, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also former President of Nigeria, has called on President Kabila to hold negotiations with Nkunda, whose rebels have won territory in the eastern province of North Kivu.

Obasanjo also said the rebel leader has demanded direct talks with the Congolese government, protection of minorities, and integration of his soldiers into the Congolese army and government.