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Confusion Over Congo Peace Summit

January 15, 1999

LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) _ The Zambian president’s peace talks aimed at ending the civil war in Congo were postponed Friday as officials in neighboring Namibia announced their own round of talks, officials said.

President Frederick Chiluba, who has been leading efforts to end the five-month war, said his talks would be delayed until Monday because more consultations were needed.

A senior Zambian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Angolan officials accused the Zambians of supporting rebels fighting Angola’s government. ``We understand Angola and Congo have objected to coming to Zambia,″ he said.

Earlier Friday, Namibian officials said they planned a weekend summit of countries involved in the war between Congolese President Laurent Kabila and a coalition of ethnic Congolese Tutsis, disaffected Congolese soldiers and opposition politicians.

Salim Ahmed Salim, secretary-general of the Organization of African Unity, told The Associated Press that the Namibia meeting would address outstanding difficulties in getting all parties to the negotiating table. The Zambian summit would likely be rescheduled later and had not been written off completely.

``There should be two summits, one there and another here,″ he said in Lusaka.

There was no immediate reaction from Chiluba’s office on the meeting in Namibia, though Namibian officials said Chiluba would attend.

The presidents of Zimbabwe, Angola and Chad will also be attending, Namibian government spokeswoman Wilma Deetlefs said. Namibia has sent troops, as have Zimbabwe and Angola, in support of Kabila.

Deetlefs said Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Pasteur Bizumungu will also come, and a small rebel delegation is expected.

Kabila had yet to confirm whether he will travel to the Namibian capital, Windhoek.

All the heads of state were expected to start arriving in Namibia on Saturday, with talks tentatively scheduled for Sunday, Namibian officials said.

Kabila has insisted on negotiating with Rwanda and Uganda, who he accuses of backing the rebels. But in a recent speech he said he would meet with the rebels if they were willing to meet him in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. The rebels declined the invitation.

Kabila’s allies have favored indirect talks with the rebels outside the main summit venue.

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