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US warns DR Congo fighting could escalate into regional war

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United States called Monday for a halt to a new outbreak of violence in the eastern DR Congo, warning the situation was a "tinderbox" that threatened to escalate into a full-scale regional war.

UN forces have joined the regular army to drive out M23 rebels in parts of the flashpoint east of the country, in a fresh flare-up of violence that kicked off Friday and saw a UN peacekeeper killed.

"The best thing now is to have the fighting stop," Russell Feingold, US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, told reporters in Paris after a trip to the region.

The Great Lakes area includes northeast DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi -- all of which are concerned by the fighting.

"I hope that President (Joseph) Kabila and others in the DRC see this chain of events that have occurred as something that enhances their credibility as a military, but that there are enormous risks in simply moving forward, believing that a military solution is the full answer," Feingold said.

"It risks bringing in other forces into this matter that could lead to a cross-national war."

Since the clashes erupted Friday, the army, backed by UN forces, have seized control of two rebel towns and a key military base.

The M23 rebel movement has threatened to pull out of stalled peace talks with Kinshasa that began off last year, and the unrest shows no sign of abating.

The UN Security Council is due Monday to hold emergency talks on the situation, which Feingold described as a "tinderbox."

Kinshasa has long accused neighbouring Kigali of pulling the strings behind the rebellion and UN experts have said the M23 "de facto chain of command" was topped by Rwanda's defence minister.

Feingold would not be drawn on Rwanda's involvement, other than to cite concerns over reports from Human Rights Watch and others on the issue.

Asked about the minister's suspected involvement, he said he could not "speak to that directly".

"But I would say that if he has that capacity, he should immediately tell them to stop the fighting," he added.

French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal also called on other countries to stop supporting the rebels.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131028/us-warns-dr-congo-fighting-could-escalate-regional-war