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DRC officials, M23 rebels locked in talks

Democratic Republic of Congo's M23 rebels and government delegates are locked in negotiations to agree an agenda for peace talks, a Ugandan official said on Friday.

“They have been meeting behind closed doors to agree on rules of procedure and the agenda,” said Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman for the Ugandan defence ministry, which is mediating the talks in Kampala.

File photo: Leader of the March 23 Movement (M23) Jean-Marie Runiga (left) addresses the media in Goma. Credit: Reuters

“We hope that they will agree on the rules and agenda by later on Friday or by Saturday morning,” Ankunda added.

The talks, which opened in Kampala on Sunday, are the latest in several bids to end a long-running conflict that has forced more than 900 000 people in war-torn eastern DR Congo's North Kivu province from their homes.

The M23 rebels' lightning capture of the mining hub of Goma on November 20, eight months after the army mutineers launched an uprising against the government, had raised fears of a wider war and a major humanitarian crisis.

M23 fighters, largely from the ethnic Tutsi community, pulled out of Goma 12 days later, but still control large parts of the chronically volatile but mineral-rich east.

They are expected to present a raft of demands to the government, including a call for major political reform for the war-weary region.

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