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US urges Rwanda and Congo to avert looming war

RWANDA and the Democratic Republic of Congo “must walk back from the brink of war,” the United States has said, giving the sharpest warning yet of a looming armed conflict between the African neighbours.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood delivered the warning on Tuesday night at an emergency meeting of the United Nations security council called by France as violence has worsened in Congo’s mineral-rich east, which borders Rwanda.

He said Rwanda and Congo, along with other “regional actors,” should immediately resume diplomatic talks.

The warning follows the Rwandan Foreign Ministry’s rejection on Monday of US calls for the withdrawal of its troops and surface-to-air missile systems from eastern Congo.

On Saturday, the US State Department also criticised the worsening violence caused by M23, a “Rwanda-backed” armed group.

The Rwanda ministry’s statement said its troops were defending Rwandan territory as Congo carried out a “dramatic military build-up” near the border.

The ministry spoke of threats to Rwandan national security stemming from the presence in Congo of an armed group whose members include alleged perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.

The so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) “is fully integrated into” the Congolese army, the statement said.

Congolese authorities accuse their neighbour’s government of actively supporting M23.

Congo’s UN ambassador Zenon Ngay Mukongo urged the security council to demand that Rwanda withdraw its troops without preconditions and halt all support for M23.

He accused Rwanda’s army of illegally occupying part of the eastern province of North Kivu and of providing support to M23 to destabilise Congo and “to pillage our riches, our wealth in ore and minerals.”

Fighting near Goma, the region’s largest city, has intensified in recent days as M23 rebels threaten to conquer it.

Eastern Congo already had one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with nearly 6 million people previously displaced by conflict, according to the UN refugee agency.

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