DR Congo rebels slam UN 'offensive' peacekeepers

The main rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday denounced as an act of war the UN approving to send its first-ever "offensive" peacekeeping brigade to the region.

Instead of "encouraging a political solution by supporting the political negotiations... the UN has chosen to wage war against one of the partners for peace," the M23 political leader Bertrand Bisimwa said in a statement.

The statement follows a decision by the UN Security Council on Thursday to approve the sending of a 3,000-strong force with orders to "neutralise" and "disarm" rebel groups in the resource-rich east of the country which has been gripped by conflict for more than two decades.

The M23 rebels, mostly army mutineers, are among the main militias operating in DR Congo's east, seeking a part in the control of the region's considerable mineral wealth.

In November they staged a lightning advance through the area and are currently involved in talks with the government in neighbouring Uganda.

The UN's "offensive" peacekeepers, due to begin operating in July, will join the MONUSCO troops (the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) which with more than 19,000 uniformed personnel is one of the largest UN peacekeeping forces in the world.

In his statement on Monday, the M23 political leader charged that "from now on, peacekeeping forces will wage war on groups of citizens who are demanding good governance in our country, including those who are currently involved in talks with their government."

The M23 -- named after the March 23, 2009 peace deal that was supposed to integrate insurgents into the Congolese army -- has witnesses vicious infighting over the past month that saw some 600 fighters flee the country for neighbouring Rwanda.