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DR Congo talks with rebel M23 to resume next week: mediator

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Peace talks between the government of Democratic Republic of Congo and M23 rebels are set to resume in Kampala in one week following a delay caused by vicious infighting between different rebel factions, the mediator of the talks said Monday.

"In the near future, probably within a week, the dialogue meetings will resume," Ugandan Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga, who is facilitating the negotiations, said.

He said the talks would involve the M23 faction loyal to the group's military leader Sultani Makenga after its fighters forced a rival grouping led by former political head Jean-Marie Runiga to flee to neighbouring Rwanda.

"Notwithstanding the developments within the M23 ranks, both the government of the DRC and the M23 remain committed to the dialogue," Kiyonga said, calling for "greater speed" to conclude the talks.

Both the rebel and government delegations have returned separately to DR Congo for internal consultations, Kiyonga said.

Uganda -- which, along with Rwanda, has been accused of supporting the rebels-- has been hosting the peace talks since December but little progress has been made. Both countries deny aiding the rebels.

The DR Congo army has been fighting the M23 since May in mineral-rich North Kivu.

The M23, made up largely of Tutsi Kinyarwanda speakers, says it is fighting for the full application of a March 23, 2009 peace agreement that incorporated an earlier rebel group the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) into the Congolese army.

Since the signature on February 24 of a UN-backed agreement aimed at restoring peace to DR Congo's troubled east, clashes have pitted Runiga's wing of the M23 against the faction loyal to Makenga.

Makenga accuses Runiga of backing Bosco Ntaganda, an infamous rebel leader known as the "Terminator" who is sought on war crimes charges by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Some 600 fighters, including Runiga, crossed into Rwanda over the weekend and on Sunday Congolese government spokesman claimed that Ntaganda had also crossed the border, an allegation dismissed by Kigali.

Kiyonga said that Uganda did not know where Ntaganda is but would arrest him and hand him over to the ICC if he crossed into the country.

Fighting between army mutineers M23 and Congolese forces in the eastern province of North Kivu has displaced 500,000 people since May last year, according to the UN refugee agency.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130318/dr-congo-talks-rebel-m23-resume-next-week-mediator