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Congo Allies Boost Forces, Apparently for Push in the East

October 23, 1998| From Times Wire Services

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Three allies dispatched artillery, soldiers and armed personnel carriers to Congo on Thursday, apparently to help the beleaguered president rout rebels in the country's eastern jungles.

The joint military campaign threatens to turn into a major escalation of a conflict that already has embroiled Rwanda and Uganda, which reportedly support rebels trying to topple Congolese President Laurent Kabila.

The deployment came a day after Zimbabwe joined two other southern African countries, Namibia and Angola, in announcing plans for a major offensive in eastern Congo. To date, their forces were concentrated in western Congo, where they fended off a rebel advance in August.

There was no official word on how many reinforcements were on their way to join about 3,000 Zimbabwean troops already in the Congo, formerly Zaire.

Howard Wolpe, the U.S. envoy to the region, called for restraint.

"We are anxious to get a cease-fire in place. . . . We do not want to see the situation there get out of control," Wolpe said after meeting Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday.

U.N. Security Council members Thursday called for an immediate end to hostilities in Congo and backed regional efforts for a cease-fire.

Also Thursday, Rwanda's vice president, Gen. Paul Kagame, met with South African President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria, South Africa's capital. No details of their discussions were released.

Mandela is trying to broker a peace accord for Congo.

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