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DR Congo talks forge ahead

NAIROBI, December 9 – Congolese rebels and government officials began a second day of direct talks under UN auspices in Nairobi on Tuesday, UN officials and rebel representatives said.

As with the opening day on Monday, the meeting at the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi was being devoted to the framework for substantive talks, which have yet to take place.

The UN special envoy for DR Congo, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo was attending the talks, UN spokesman Jens Laerke said, adding that the delegations were still laying down the ground rules for substantive talks.

Rebel spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa told AFP that Monday’s talks had focused on "establishing the rules for future negotiations".

"We are due to resume our discussions today on the modalities (of the talks), we haven’t started to discuss the substance of the issues with the government delegation," Bisimwa said.

Bisimwa said he had been in regular contact with the rebel leader, ex-general Laurent Nkunda, who has remained in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The government delegation is led by International and Regional Cooperation Minister Raymond Tshibanda, while the five-man rebel delegation is headed by Serge Kambasu Ngeve, deputy executive secretary of the CNDP.

Fighting since August 28 between government troops and Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels has displaced more than 250,000 people in eastern Nord-Kivu province.

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Nkunda’s fighters have inflicted heavy losses on the Congolese army and have taken control of vast swathes of the fertile province after an offensive which has brought the rebels to within a few kilometres (miles) of the provincial capital Goma.

Obasanjo told Monday’s opening session that it was time to "open a new chapter of durable peace and harmony" in DR Congo.

"The current humanitarian crisis in North Kivu is a scar on the conscience of the world."


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