MANSOA, Guinea-Bissau (AP) _ The promise of peace talks in Guinea-Bissau was muffled by the crash of a massive rocket assault Tuesday on the capital and fierce fighting in the nearby town of Mansoa.

Just hours before a government delegation was to meet with rebel military leaders to discuss terms of a cease-fire, volleys of artillery and rocket fire slammed in on the capital of Bissau and its outlying areas.

The echoing crash of the fighting could be heard in Mansoa, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Bissau.

The talks were abruptly canceled as both sides accused the other of launching the volley. It was unclear who fired the first shot.

In Mansoa, rebel forces used rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns to drive away loyalist forces.

Troops loyal to President Joao Bernardo Vieira had been holding a key road junction linking Bissau and Mansoa to the country's northern interior.

Earlier, the rebellious military leaders had demanded that Senegal and Republic of Guinea, fighting in support of Vieira, withdraw all troops before the rebels will continue peace negotiations.

The renegade soldiers are also calling for a cease-fire and the intervention of Portuguese soldiers, rebel officials said.

Maj. Gomes Fernandes, the rebels' spokesman, asked Portuguese ambassador Francisco Henriques da Silva to press the government to stop the attacks.

``If one of ours dies, you can be sure we'll retaliate,'' Fernandes told da Silva in a phone call quoted by the Portuguese news agency Lusa.

Da Silva was following up on the mediation efforts launched at the weekend by Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in Lisbon.

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