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Congo rebel leader backs ceasefire talks

Congo's rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, whose forces have been fighting government troops, said on Sunday he was prepared for a ceasefire.

world Updated: Nov 16, 2008 20:50 IST

Congo's rebel leader Laurent Nkunda, whose forces have been fighting government troops, said on Sunday he was prepared for a ceasefire.

The renegade general met former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, a UN peace envoy, in the rebel-held town of Jomba, in the east.

"We agreed to open humanitarian corridors to support the process," he told reporters.

On Saturday, Obasanjo had with Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

Sunday's talks were held as heavy fighting continued. United Nations peacekeeping spokesman Col. Jean-Paul Dietrich said heavy gun battles broke out early Sunday morning in the village of Ndeko, 110 km north of capital Goma. Artillery and rocket blasts could be heard from the surrounding area.

Last week, the UN Security Council failed to reach a decision on sending additional peacekeepers to Congo.

The UN currently has 17,000 peacekeepers serving as part of the Congo mission known as Monuc, the world's largest peacekeeping force.

Dietrich said on Tuesday that Congolese army troops had plundered villages in eastern Congo, looting houses and raping civilians as they retreated from Nkunda's rebel forces.

An estimated 250,000 people have been left homeless in more than 10 weeks of fighting between army and rebel troops.