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Zaire Rebels, Poised to Attack Key City, Agree to Negotiate

March 09, 1997| Associated Press

KISANGANI, Zaire — The leader of Zaire's rebels agreed Saturday to enter negotiations to halt his offensive on the government, a mediator said. But it appeared unlikely that any such talks would come soon enough to stop an assault on this strategic city.

Jan Pronk, Dutch minister of development cooperation, met rebel leader Laurent Kabila in the eastern city of Goma on Saturday and said he had agreed for the first time to accept a United Nations plan for a cease-fire.

Kabila's advisor on foreign affairs, Bizima Karha, announced after the meeting that the rebels also would allow aid and relief organizations access to more than 100,000 refugees caught in the fighting in eastern Zaire, Pronk said.

The Dutch minister said U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked him to urge Kabila to accept a U.N. peace plan, which calls for an immediate cease-fire.

But it appeared unlikely that an accord would be negotiated before rebel fighters launch a battle for control of Kisangani.

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