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Congo's M23 rebels refuse to leave Goma (+video)

A Congolese military spokesman says the rebels are issuing 'a declaration of war' by not withdrawing from the eastern city.

MINOVA (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (AFP) - A general from the Congolese Army denies Minova has fallen under rebel control and says the situation is improving.
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Congo's M23 rebels defied a deadline imposed by neighboring nations, saying Tuesday the insurgents will stay in the crucial, eastern city of Goma and will fight the Congolese army if it tries to retake it.

Congo's military spokesman Col. Olivier Hamuli called it "a declaration of war" and said the army will resume combat, although he declined to say when.

Highlighting the volatility of the situation, a different rebel group based in Congo, known as the FDLR, crossed into neighboring Rwanda and attacked Rwandan army positions, according to villagers, eyewitnesses and Rwanda's military spokesman. It raised the possibility that Congo was directly retaliating against Rwanda, its much-smaller but more affluent neighbor, which has twice gone to war with Congo and which is now believed to be directing the M23 rebellion.

Speaking in Goma on Tuesday, M23 president Jean-Marie Runiga said the rebels will not leave the city of 1 million which they seized a week ago. The deadline imposed by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region for the rebels to depart was midnight Monday.

At the same time, Runiga said that the rebels would like to negotiate with the Congolese government. In April, when the rebellion began, the group initially said they wanted to revisit the March 23, 2009 peace accord which paved the way for the fighters to join the Congolese military. The group initially claimed that Congo had not held up its end of the bargain, failing to provide the fighters with adequate pay and proper equipment.

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