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Rwanda, Uganda Discuss Congo War

May 14, 2000

MWANZA, Tanzania (AP) _ The presidents of Rwanda and Uganda met here Sunday for talks aimed at diffusing growing hostility between the nominal allies backing rebels in the 21-month civil war in Congo.

Paul Kagame of Rwanda arrived first in this town on Lake Victoria and spoke for 40 minutes with Tanzania’s President Benjamin Mkapa. Yoweri Museveni of Uganda _ Kagame’s former comrade in the guerrilla movement against Ugandan President Milton Obote _arrived 1 1/2 hours later and spoke briefly with Mkapa at the airport before heading to the Hotel Tilapia where the meeting was to take place.

A Tanzanian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mkapa had spoken with Museveni earlier by telephone in an attempt to narrow differences between Uganda and Rwanda before the talks began.

Rwanda and Uganda back separate rebel factions opposed to Congolese President Laurent Kabila and have split control of the northern city of Kisangani.

Their forces fought a fierce four-day battle in Kisangani last August before clashing again May 5, then again on May 9. There were reports of 28 dead, most of them Congolese civilians.

The U.N. Security Council, which is trying to deploy 5,537 military observers and troops to guard them in support of a peace agreement for Congo signed last July and August, has called on Rwanda and Uganda to withdraw from Kisangani.

Rwandan officials said a Congolese envoy had carried a rare message of peace from Kabila to Kagame on Saturday. Congolese Justice Minister Mwenze Kongolo met with Kagame in Kigali in the first such contact since Rwanda poured men and weapons in to support the rebels in August 1998.

Kabila reportedly expressed interest in a quick end to the war and hoped to initiate direct contact with Rwandans, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Later Sunday, Rwandan and Ugandan army officials were to meet in Kisangani under the auspices of the U.N. observer mission, a Rwandan military official said.

While in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on Friday, Ugandan army chief Maj. Gen. Jeje Odongo said both countries had begun negotiations on the withdrawal, the Ugandan government-owned New Vision reported Saturday. Odongo said he had discussed the matter with Kagame, but Rwandan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Ndahiro said Odongo had met only with his Rwandan counterpart, Brig. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Zephyr Mutanguha, Rwanda’s ambassador to Tanzania, told reporters on Saturday that reports that both countries were sending troops to their common border were causing ``some tensions in the region″ that could ``lead to war.″

But he went on to say he was confident a solution could be found, even though it might take more than a one-day meeting.

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