The UN Security Council voiced deep concern on Monday over continued violence in eastern Congo following a plea from the UN peacekeeping chief to help stop an increasingly dangerous situation.
At least 165,000 people have been uprooted in eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since January when the government and a renegade general, Laurent Nkunda, agreed to combine their troops but without success.
An estimated 10,000 Rwandan Hutu fighters are present in the area and Nkunda's forces have close ties to Rwanda's Tutsi government.
The council's statement, read at a public meeting by China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, called on foreign armed groups to stop fighting and for newly integrated or "mixed" brigades to stop recruiting soldiers.
The council also expressed concern about the recruitment of child soldiers "especially by forces loyal to Laurent Nkunda."
A Reuters report showed some 4,000 children still remain active in army brigades, local militias and foreign rebel groups mainly in the east — but also among government troops.
Jean-Marie Guehenno, the head of UN peacekeeping told reporters it was important to keep up international pressure. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had been in touch with Congolese leaders and the European Union and Belgium, the former colonial power, had made high-level representations.
"There is a concentration of armed forces from both sides — from the side of the government and from General Nkunda," Guehenno said. "What is true is that Mr Nkunda's (forces), I think, are the single most serious threat to the stabilization of the Congo at this stage."
The Security Council demanded that rebel forces in the eastern region "lay down their arms and engage voluntarily and without preconditions in their demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and re-integration."
Congo is the largest UN peacekeeping mission with more than 17,000 troops in the vast central African country.
Despite successful polls last year that chose Joseph Kabila as Congo's first democratically elected president in over 40 years, fears are growing of a return to war in North Kivu in the eastern region.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Temmuz 2007, 11:12