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UN: Congo Rebels Withdraw From Town

March 28, 2002

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) _ Congolese rebels on Wednesday pulled out of a strategic port they captured earlier this month, boosting hopes for ongoing peace talks on the nation’s future in South Africa, the United Nations said.

U.N. special representative Amos Namanga Ngongi said Rwandan-backed rebels withdrew from the Lake Tanganyika port of Moliro early Wednesday, which they captured March 16.

The government of President Joseph Kabila had pulled out of the talks in Sun City, South Africa, on March 14, as rebels were advancing on the port.

The government returned to the negotiating table a week later, after the U.N. Security Council chastised the rebels and ordered them to pull out.

``We have received assurances that the government won’t try to retake Moliro, and that the (rebels) won’t try to reoccupy Moliro,″ Ngongi told reporters in Kinshasa.

Rebel spokesman Jean Pierre Lola Kisanga confirmed rebels had left the town. Last week, rebels said they wanted U.N. observers _ not the government _ to deploy in there if they left.

The talks in Sun City began Feb. 25 and are meant to plot Congo’s path toward reconciliation and democracy. They bring together delegates of the government, rebel movements, unarmed opposition groups and civil society.

War broke out in Congo in August 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda sent troops to back Congolese rebels seeking to oust then-President Laurent Kabila. Troops from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola stepped in to back the government.

A peace accord was signed in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, in 1999. That deal has been repeatedly violated.

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