UPDATE 1-African leaders tell Congo rebels to stop war

Elias Biryabarema
Reuters Middle East

* Rebels vow to "liberate" the vast central African country

* M23 not available to comment on the proposals

* Rwanda denies backing the rebels

KAMPALA, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Heads of state from Africa's

Great Lakes region on Saturday urged rebels in the Democratic

Republic of Congo's turbulent east to stop expanding their war

and leave the town of Goma which they captured this week.

The leaders met in the Ugandan capital Kampala to try to

bring an end to the conflict after the M23 rebels said they

planned to "liberate" the vast central African country. The M23

is widely thought to be backed by Rwanda, a claim it denies.

A statement signed by the leaders after their meeting urged

the M23 to stop talk of overthrowing an elected government and

to "stop all war activities and withdraw from Goma".

Jean-Marie Runiga, the political chief of the M23 rebel

group which took control of Congo's eastern city of Goma this

week was also in Kampala, but could not be immediately reached

for comment on the proposals.

It was also not clear whether Runiga would meet Congo's

President Joseph Kabila.

The leaders said they would deploy a joint force at Goma

airport comprising one company of a neutral international force

of African troops, one company of the Congo army (FARDC) and one

company of the M23, which currently controls the air field.

Kabila, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Tanzanian

President Jakaya Kikwete and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

attended the one-day summit. Rwandan President Paul Kagame did

not attend, but was represented by Foreign Minister Louise


The leaders also resolved to have a United Nations force

already in Goma to occupy and provide security in the neutral

zone between Goma and the new areas taken by M23.

Goma is a regional headquarters of a U.N. force, known as

MONUSCO, tasked with assisting government troops to protect

civilians, but peacekeepers largely looked on once the army fled

the city of one million people.

The statement said police that were disarmed in Goma by the

M23 should also re re-armed so they can resume working.

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