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The Congolese rebel militia M23 said on Friday it was ready to hold peace talks with the government, as regional leaders made a push to resolve the crisis in eastern Congo.
M23 has been waging an insurgency for about a year and a half. In November the group took control of Goma, the key city in the volatile eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but later withdrew.
Talks between the rebels and the government broke down earlier this year, and regional leaders have been meeting in Uganda this week in a bid to restart negotiations following heavy clashes between the rebels and government forces.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on Thursday met with his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila. Rwanda, and to a lesser extent Uganda, have been accused of aiding the rebels, charges that both countries deny.
“All the members of our delegation are already here to start the negotiations,” the chief rebel negotiator, Rene Abandi, told dpa.
The rebels declared a ceasefire last week and implied they would be willing to deal with the government.
The government wants the rebels, comprised largely of ethnic Tutsi soldiers who defected, to disarm and become a political party. It is unclear how much the government is willing to offer in the talks.
According to the United Nations, which is backing the peace talks, the fighting since April last year has displaced more than 100 000 people, adding to the 2.6 million people who had fled their homes because of previous violence.
A special UN fighting force in eastern Congo recently launched its first attacks on the rebels. The 3 000-strong force joins about 20 000 UN peacekeepers already in Congo. - Sapa-dpa