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Holbrooke: Congo Deal Must Be Saved

December 4, 1999

WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) _ U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke expressed concern today that a fragile cease-fire agreement in Congo was falling apart, and said the failing peace must be revived as soon as possible.

Warring parties in Congo signed a cease-fire accord in August, but fighting continues in the sprawling Central African nation. A major focus of Holbrooke’s African tour is to help save the accord.

Addressing reporters after talks with Namibian President Sam Nujoma, Holbrooke said: ``In regard to Congo we agreed that this is the most serious problem facing the region and discussed the importance of appointing a facilitator immediately.″

Namibia, along with Angola and Zimbabwe, sent troops to help Congo President Laurent Kabila’s government fight a rebel insurrection. Uganda and Rwanda back the rebels.

The cease-fire accord, signed in Lusaka, Zambia, was to pave the way for the withdrawal of foreign troops and the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers.

Nujoma has not specified a time for withdrawing an estimated 2,000 Namibian troops serving in the Congo, Holbrooke said.

``The president said that his troops are there in a passive position in accordance with the Lusaka agreement and he wanted a facilitator and U.N. force to replace them.″

Fierce fighting was reported in the Congo this week. Congolese rebels said Friday they had lost a key northwestern town to pro-government troops battling to rescue hundreds of their surrounded allies.

Holbrooke said he also discussed with Nujoma the problem of AIDS, which ``threatens even the most promising democracies in Africa.″

AIDS accounted for 23 percent of reported deaths in Namibia last year and government statistics released this week show that 35.2 percent of 35,274 pregnant women tested between January and October this year had contracted the HIV virus.

Namibia is the third stop on Holbrooke’s nine-nation African tour. He was to leave Namibia later today for South Africa.

Update hourly