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DR of Congo: Annan mulls stronger UN mandate to counter rise in armed groups

DR of Congo: Annan mulls stronger UN mandate to counter rise in armed groups

Annan with Presidents Kabila, Mbeki, and Kagamé in Paris
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) might have to be strengthened because of the proliferation of armed groups in the eastern part of the country.

The Secretary-General, in Paris to attend the Africa-France summit, met for over an hour with Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Joseph Kabila of the DRC to discuss ways to advance the peace process in the DRC.

According to a UN spokesperson, the leaders agreed that the proliferation of the armed groups was destabilizing the situation and undermining the peace process.

In the end, stability can best be achieved by the establishment of a broad-based government, formed through the inter-Congolese dialogue, which can extend its control to all parts of the country.

Mr. Annan also attended the summit's final working session and held a series of bilateral meetings, beginning with President Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, with whom he discussed ways to accelerate the peace process in that country.

With President Idriss Deby of Chad, the Secretary-General discussed relations between that country and neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR). Thousands of refugees have poured into southern Chad to escape fighting between CAR government troops and rebel forces.

Mr. Annan then met with the new Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, Seydou Diarra, who described his efforts to form a Government of national unity along the lines agreed last month in Paris in a bid to end fighting in the country.

The Secretary-General "stressed the urgent need to assure the public and to get the economy back on track," spokesperson Marie Okabe told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York. He also said a UN team would arrive soon to assess the security situation, and that he had asked that two UN human rights experts be part of that team, she added.

Mr. Annan later met with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al Faisal.