File photo: This photo taken on July 8, 2012, shows Colonel Sultani Makenga, head of the rebel M23 group, looking on from a hill in Bunagana, a town near the Ugandan border.

Kampala - The government of Democratic Republic of Congo and M23 rebels on Friday restarted peace negotiations in Kampala after a three-week break, the Ugandan defence minister said.

“The delegations to the dialogue between the DRC government and the M23 have today resumed the talks,” said Crispus Kiyonga, who is mediating the negotiations.

The talks were meant to resume last week but were delayed by the government's refusal to agree to rebel demands to sign an official ceasefire.

The rebels Ä army mutineers largely from the ethnic Tutsi community Ästaged a lightning advance in November through the DR Congo's mineral-rich and chronically unstable east, raising fears of a widespread conflict.

Uganda is hosting the talks despite accusations that it Ä as well as Rwanda Ä has backed the fighters, claims which both countries have strongly denied.

Although the M23 rebels were persuaded to withdraw from the key eastern city of Goma after a 12-day occupation, they still control large areas of territory just outside the strategic mining hub.

Almost two weeks of talks in December ended without even an agreement on the agenda for the negotiations, with the rebels issuing a raft of demands including a call for major political reform in the war-weary region.

Kiyonga said the agenda was “more or less” agreed and that recent sanctions slapped on the M23 leadership by the United Nations would not affect the talks.

The negotiations are the latest in several bids to end a long-running conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of people in eastern DR Congo from their homes.

Kiyonga also said that Uganda had no objections to a UN plan to use drones for intelligence-gathering in Eastern Congo.

“As far as drones are concerned, the drones can be used for two purposes: you use them for intelligence or for fighting. If a drone is for intelligence and it respects sovereignty it will be all right,” he said, adding however that before the drones are deployed “we need to consult and agree.”

Rwanda has however expressed objections to the project.

DR Congo's east, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, was the cradle of back-to-back wars that drew in much of the region from 1996 to 2003. They were fought largely over its vast wealth of gold, coltan and cassiterite, key components in electronic goods. - Sapa-AFP