- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2002

U.N. aide denies Congo talks failed

KINSHASA, Congo An official with the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo dismissed yesterday rebel claims that peace talks in Geneva last week had failed.

"This meeting succeeded in yielding an accord between the government and the [Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC)] on key questions that have been considered sensitive until now," said Vital Kamerhe, deputy commissioner of the U.N. Observer Mission for Congo (MONUC).

The Geneva meeting brought together Kinshasa ministers and representatives of the Ugandan-backed MLC and the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) in talks to end the country's complex war. It was a lead-up to meetings Feb. 25 in South Africa known as the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

'Hired peacekeepers' provoke concern

LONDON British government suggestions that mercenaries could be hired for armed U.N. missions prompted fears yesterday over the dangers of "privatized peacekeeping."

Critics said the idea, floated Tuesday by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, was an abdication of government responsibility and raised questions about the accountability of U.N. forces and respect for human rights in conflict zones.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, speaking four years ago, said he had considered using a private firm to separate fighters and refugees in Rwandan refugee camps.

Refugee crisis feared in Angola

LUANDA, Angola The United Nations has warned of an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the eastern Angolan province of Moxico, where the past six months have seen sustained fighting between the Angolan Armed Forces and UNITA rebels. The southwest African nation has known little but civil war since independence from Portugal in 1975.

A report by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that during January more than 5,600 internally displaced persons arrived in the provincial capital, Luena. This makes a total of more than 89,000 displaced persons in the city, the report said.

Weekly notes

Madagascar opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana is prepared to stand in a second-round runoff vote in the presidential election he insists he won in a Dec. 16 vote, according to an interview appearing in the French daily La Croix, published in Paris. "Yes, if necessary I'll go to the second round We're just at the beginning of negotiations with [incumbent] President [Didier] Ratsiraka, there's no question of [the protests] stopping." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday Togo's new election regulations were leading to a breakdown of political consensus in the West African nation. Togo's parliament this month approved laws requiring candidates to live in Togo continuously for six months before the poll. This would spare President Gnassingbe Eyadema, whose party controls the legislature, from a challenge by main rival Gilchrist Olympio, who lives in Ghana.

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