The Rwandan government welcomed a pledge by the country's main Hutu rebel group to stop fighting the government.

Rwanda's Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of the Interior, Joseph Mutaboba, told VOA that Thursday's announcement was "a good thing, if they mean it."

But Mr. Mutaboba cautioned that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda would have to integrate itself back into Rwandan society as others have done and should not expect any kind of negotiations with the government.

"All their colleagues who left them in the bush and came home have joined the other Rwandans in the work of rebuilding the country, and have joined any political affiliation they want to," said Mr. Mutaboba.  "So let them do the same."

After talks at the Sant'Egidio religious community in Rome, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda said Thursday it would stop its armed struggle against the government and would instead engage in what it called a "political process."

The group promised to "disarm voluntarily and return peacefully to Rwanda."

The country's main Hutu rebel group also condemned the 1994 genocide in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda has been accused of playing a prominent role in the genocide. They and others involved in the killings fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, after the genocide.

A spokesman for the African Union, Desmond Orjiako, also welcomed Thursday's announcement.

"We think that such an act will bring about some stability in the entire Great Lakes Region, not only in the DRC or Rwanda," he said.

Mr. Orjiako told VOA the Hutu and other rebel groups have raided and stolen from the local population in DRC and caused other insecurity in DRC and Burundi.

He said the Hutu rebel group has been accused of crossing the border from DRC into Rwanda and attacking nearby villages there.