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Congo rejects rebels' truce talks proposal

Rebels fighting against the Democratic Republic of Congo government have made their way to just outside the city of Goma, while refugees again flee from the rebel attack.

Image

In this file photo, M23 rebels conduct training exercises in Rumangabo, eastern Congo. The Rwandan-backed rebel group advanced to within 2.4 miles of Goma, a crucial provincial capital in eastern Congo, marking the first time that rebels have come this close since 2008. Congolese army spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli said the fighting has been going on since 6 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012.

Stephen Wandera/AP/File

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The Democratic Republic of Congo government on Monday dismissed a demand from rebels in the country's east for truce talks, saying that the insurgent force pushing towards the city of Goma was merely a tool of neighboring Rwanda.

The rejection meant that the worst fighting in the area in four years was only likely to intensify, bringing with it a new humanitarian crisis as refugees fled the city.

The M23 rebels had halted their advance about 5 kilometers from Goma on Monday and gave the government 24 hours to start talks or face a new onslaught. They say that Kinshasa broke the terms of a 2009 peace agreement that integrated them into the army as a solution to an earlier rebellion.

A government spokesman said it was not interested in rebel proposals or ultimatums.

"M23 is defined by the government as a fiction created by Rwanda to hide their criminal activities against the DRC," spokesman Lambert Mende said. "It is an ultimatum from a fictitious group that has no real value to us."

United Nations experts back the government contention that Rwanda, which has intervened in Congo repeatedly over the past 18 years, is behind the M23 revolt. Rwanda denies involvement.

Congo is rich in minerals including diamonds, gold, copper and coltan - used in mobile phones. But little money has been spent on developing a country the size of Western Europe.

The government accuses Rwanda of wanting to control the mineral resources by backing the insurgents.

The country was wracked by wars between 1994 and 2003 which killed about five million people. Many eastern areas are still plagued by violence from a variety of rebel groups.

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