While Congo's government is "open for dialogue" with all militias, it rejects rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's demand for direct negotiations, a spokesman said Tuesday. Nkunda, whose forces are within striking distance of Goma, the capital of strategic North Kivu Province, said earlier in the day that he'd march on the national capital, Kinshasa, unless President Joseph Kabila agreed to talks. The rebels also accused Zimbabwe and neighboring Angola of preparing to send troops to help Kabila's Army, as they did in the 1998-2002 war. Zimbabwe denied the claim; Angola did not comment immediately.
Islamic clerics and Vatican representatives opened three days of meetings in Rome aimed at defusing tensions and promoting better interfaith relations. The gathering comes two years after a speech by Pope Benedict XVI in which he appeared to link Islam to past incidents of violence. His remarks touched off furious protests in the Muslim world. He is scheduled to meet with both delegations Thursday.