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Annan urges rebels to halt offensive in northeastern DR of Congo

27 December United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today voiced deep concern over reports that rebel forces have continued military offensives in the northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) despite committing themselves earlier this month to a ceasefire and agreeing on transitional arrangements intended to set the stage for the holding of free and fair elections.

A statement issued by a spokesman for the Secretary-General said that it was "equally disturbing" that forces from the Congolese Rally for Democracy-National/Congolese Liberation Movement (RCD-N/MLC), joined possibly by those from the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), have failed to heed calls by the UN Security Council on 24 December to cease all hostilities and settle their differences peacefully.

"The Secretary-General calls on MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and RCD-N leader Roger Lumbala to restrain their forces from further advances," the statement said. "He reminds those responsible for violating humanitarian law that the international community will hold them accountable for their actions."

Reports indicate that tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes as military forces continue to fight over territory in the east. In addition, RCD-N/MLC forces are supposedly poised to take over the town of Beni, the centre of the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Kisangani (Liberation Movement), which could result in further displacement of civilians and seriously call into doubt the parties' readiness to implement the 16 December Accord, the statement said.

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