DR Congo

Congo's Kabila sets conditions for talks at UN

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KINSHASA, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Congolese President Laurent Kabila wants the United States to demand the pullout of Ugandan and Rwandan troops from his country before he agrees to attend U.N. talks in New York on the civil war in the former Zaire.
Kabila set the condition in an interview on Congolese television on Tuesday night. Hours earlier, state radio had reported he would attend a January 24 session of the U.N. Security Council to be devoted to conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke holds the council presidency for January and has designated it the "Month of Africa".

"There is a precondition. I am not yet satisfied," Kabila said on television.

"Mr Holbrooke should demand the departure of the Rwandans and Ugandans from Congolese territory. Once he does that I can go (to New York), but if he doesn't he can forget it. I am happy here at home."

Kabila said the United States had never condemned what he called the occupation of Congolese territory by Rwandan, Ugandan and Burundian troops, a fact he said had encouraged the forces from the three neighbouring states.

Conflict has been raging in Congo since August 1998 when rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda took up arms to topple Kabila. Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe have sent a total of more than 10,000 troops to support his beleaguered army.

A ceasefire accord signed in Zambia last year by the presidents of the countries involved in the conflict and by the rebels has not halted the war. A United Nations plan to deploy a large international buffer force has been held up largely by continuing clashes.

Kabila said a high-level Congolese government delegation would still travel to New York "to listen to and participate in the debate".

Kabila also dismissed a report on Monday by London-based Amnesty International accusing the Congolese government of widespread human rights abuses and of conducting a campaign likely to lead to a massacre of minority ethnic-Tutsis.

"What credibility has the famous Amnesty International when it bases its declarations on lies?," Kabila asked in the television interview. "There are no Tutsis here, so how are they going to be persecuted since they are not here?"

Tutsis are now concentrated in the Congo's eastern half, which is under rebel control. Those in Kinshasa or other government-held areas either fled at the start of the conflict or were later evacuated with U.S. assistance.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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