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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

African Leaders Meet to Discuss Zaire Crisis

LOME, Togo -- African heads of state and the UN secretary general opened a summit Wednesday on the rebellion sweeping Zaire and called anew for a cease-fire and peace talks.


A major question remained over which must come first -- a cease-fire in the six-month rebel offensive led by Laurent Kabila, or negotiations between rebels and representatives of Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko.


"It's necessary for everyone to renounce violence and get to the negotiation table," UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said. "The fighting must stop and dialogue must begin."


Kabila, whose rebels have captured much of eastern Zaire, has refused calls for a cease-fire until Mobutu or his representatives agree to enter into negotiations with the rebels.


Nzanga Mobutu, the president's son and spokesman, said Wednesday that his father continues to insist that rebels stop fighting before talks begin.


Neither Mobutu nor Kabila attended the summit, but both sent delegations that were meeting privately at a Lome hotel. Neither side immediately issued any statement.


U.S. troops are nearly in position to carry out an air or sea evacuation of U.S. citizens from Zaire, though the Pentagon says the situation appears to be improving. "It is now calm in Kinshasa," a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday. "But we have to be alert to that possibility."