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U.N. Tackles African Peace

With fighting persisting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the U.N. Security Council attempted Monday to get key African leaders to put the peace process on track again.

An extraordinary U.N. Security Council session, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, has drawn African presidents and foreign ministers from 10 countries, including Congo President Laurent Kabila.

Albright opened the meeting by saying the world had to stop "Africa's first world war." She said "The continent cannot hope to meet the aspirations of its people until this war is history."

But the monumental task before the council was immediately evident with Congo President Laurent Kabila saying a cease-fire pact of July 1999 signed in Lusaka was now dead and Zambian President Frederick Chiluba saying it was very much alive.

However both presidents said U.N. peacekeepers were very much needed and chastised the council for not sending them. The civil war involves troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia supporting Kabila against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. Kabila, himself, in 1997 overthrew the late dictator Mouton See Sego in what was then Zaire.

"The Lusaka agreement is deadlocked. The agreement is not working," Kabila said.

He said "aggressors" from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi had destroyed the agreement and only peacekeepers systematically deployed could solve the problem. Foreign troops needed to be a buffer on borders with those three countries, he said.

Chiluba, who mediated the July agreement, said one major problem in implementing the cease-fire was a lack of funds for the Joint Military Commission supervising it, thereby creating a vacuum that was now being rectified.

He said it was unfair for the international community to be reluctant to send peacekeepers unless the Lusaka agreement "registers a perfect score on some performance chart."

"To the best of my knowledge, no other cease-fire agreement anywhere in the world has been subjected to this test," he told the council. "If such were to be done I am confident that not a single one would pass the test."

Albright said Congress would be asked to provide $1 million to support the peace effort and another $1 million to support a "national dialogue" in the Congo among varying factions.

But she said for any peacekeeping mission to succeed, it must provide for "access, security and cooperation." She said the primary responsibility to implement these steps "rests with the parties, including the rebel groups."

Annan proposed last week the deployment of more than 5,000 troops to protect 500 unarmed U.N. military observers, of which only 79 have been deployed. He indicated, in a report to the council, that the initial intervention could set the stage for a much larger, more costly operation.

The recommended force would returU.N. troops to a country that brought the world body close to political collapse four decades ago and cost the life of Dag Hammarskjold, its second secretary-general, in an air crash on his way to peace talks. Some 20,000 foreign troops intervened in the early 1960s, with 250 fatalities.

Recollections of that venture, after the Congo became independent from Belgium, has the United States wary of authorizing troops. Some members of Congress are opposed to the whole deal.

France, on the other hand, wants at least 10,000 peacekeepers in the area as soon as possible, saying the Lusaka accords could not succeed if the United Nations waited for all fighting to stop.

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