November 16, 2008 in Nation/World

Envoy: Congolese leader ready to meet rival

Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A displaced child chews on an empty plate Saturday in Kibati in eastern Congo. The U.N. refugee agency plans to move 60,000 Congolese caught between the front lines this week.
(Full-size photo)

GOMA, Congo – Renewed fighting broke out Saturday between rebels and soldiers in eastern Congo, as a U.N. special envoy flew in for emergency talks and said President Joseph Kabila was ready to meet his main rival.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo spoke in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, before flying to the eastern city of Goma. Fighting erupted in August in the east, displacing 250,000 people and raising fears the violence could spread through the region.

Obasanjo met Kabila late Friday and said the Congolese leader “did not give anything that I would call conditions” for holding talks with rebel leader Laurent Nkunda. “But we are at the exploratory stage now,” Obasanjo said.

The army and rebels exchanged fire for about 10 minutes Saturday in Kabasha, a village around 70 miles north of Goma, said Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich, a spokesman for the 17,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo.

“It’s not clear who started it,” Dietrich said. “We have launched patrols in the area.”

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