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Congo Rebels Set Conditions For Withdrawal From Eastern Cities



GOMA - Congo M23 rebel leader Jean-Marie Runiga told reporters his fighters would agree to withdraw from the country’s eastern city of Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province, if President Joseph Kabila met their demands, Reuters reports.

These include national negotiations, the release of political prisoners and the dissolution of an electoral commission, the news agency reported.

This contradicts Uganda’s military chief who said earlier on Tuesday that the leader of the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colonel Sultani Makenga, had agreed to withdraw from the cities of Goma and Sake and stop any further advances southward.

Lambert Mende, The Congolese government spokesman, dismissed M23's demands on Tuesday.

"It's a farce, that's the word. There's been a document adopted by the region. If each day they're going to come back with new demands it becomes ridiculous. We're no longer in the realms of seriousness," Mende told Reuters.

There are reports of new fighting in the area, with rebels attacking villages over the border in Rwanda.

At an emergency summit Saturday in Kampala, regional leaders from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, had ordered the M23 rebels to leave Goma by this Monday.

Last week, the M23 rebels, also known as the Congolese Revolution Army, took total control of Goma, with hundreds of Congolese government soldiers and police surrendering. The rebels expressed their will to overturn the RDC government.

Both neighboring countries Uganda and Rwanda strongly deny UN accusations that they are backing the rebel group M23. Rwanda has sought to justify its backing for previous rebel groups in eastern Congo by saying they are the only way of preventing Hutu militias from launching attacks.

More than 500,000 people have fled their homes during seven months of fighting in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the North Kivu province, reports BBC News.

Fighting broke out in April in the Congolese North Kivu province between M23 rebels and government forces following disagreements over a 2009 peace accord that integrated National Congress Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels into the national army. The M23 are former CNDP members who believe the deal was not properly implemented by the Kabila regime, which they oppose.

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