U.N. Extends Congo Mission
EDITH M. LEDERER
Jun. 15, 2002
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UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The U.N. Security Council extended the peacekeeping mission in Congo for one year on Friday, demanding the speedy withdrawal of all foreign forces and talks between Congo and Rwanda to help end a nearly four-year conflict.
Congo's civil war broke out in August 1998 when Rwanda and Uganda and later Burundi backed Congolese rebels seeking to oust then-President Laurent Kabila. Troops from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola backed Kabila's government.
A 1999 cease-fire was repeatedly violated but the peace process picked up after Kabila's January 2001 assassination and the succession of his son, Joseph. In recent months, however, fighting in eastern Congo has intensified.
The resolution adopted by the 15-member council demanded ``the total and expeditious withdrawal of all foreign forces'' and encouraged the Rwandan and Congolese governments ``to address the fundamental security issues at the heart of the conflict.''
The U.N. force monitoring the 1999 cease-fire has an authorized strength of 5,537 troops _ including 500 military observers _ but only 3,800 are currently in the country. The resolution called on the 189 U.N. member states to contribute troops to the force.
The council also called on the Congolese government and rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda to hold new talks as soon as possible to reach an ``all-inclusive agreement'' on power-sharing arrangements during Congo's transition from war to democratic elections.
The Congolese government signed a power-sharing agreement with two Ugandan-backed rebel groups and some opposition parties last month, but it was rejected by the largest rebel group, the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy, as well as leading opposition parties.