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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zaire Rebels Hinge Cease-Fire on Talks With Mobutu

GOMA, Zaire -- Zairean rebels Thursday demanded negotiations with President Mobutu Sese Seko as a precondition of a cease-fire, and France urged its nationals to leave Zaire and sent troops and aircraft to the region.

Kakudji Gaetan, rebel commissioner for foreign affairs, said the rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire insisted a cease-fire can only follow direct talks.

"We are ready for negotiations at any time, and we have always said so," Kakudji said at rebel headquarters in the eastern city of Goma. "If the rest of the world wants that, then they should put pressure on the other side, not just on us."

African leaders meeting in Nairobi with Zaire's prime minister called Wednesday for an immediate cease-fire to pave the way for negotiations to end six months of fighting in east Zaire.

In Paris, a Defense Ministry spokesman said France has sent aircraft and about 100 troops to Congo and Gabon in case it has to protect or evacuate its nationals from neighboring Zaire.

"Given the situation, and in order to ensure the safety of our citizens if necessary, the Defense Ministry has decided to sent extra resources to Libreville and Brazzaville," he said.

Rebels have captured more than one-fifth of Africa's third largest country, including its third-biggest city, Kisangani, sparking unrest and fears of violence or a coup in Kinshasa.

In southern France, Mobutu's son and spokesman said his father would return to Kinshasa on Friday to seek a solution to Zaire's deepening crisis. Mobutu has previously said he would crush the rebels.

The 66-year-old president, released from a Monaco hospital Wednesday after further cancer treatment, failed to appear at a planned photo session. His son, Mobutu Nzanga, said he was too busy.

"He is going to the capital tomorrow. His intention is to find a solution to the present crisis in consultation with parliament, the government and the military high command," Mobutu Nzanga said.

Speaking after a meeting with South African President Nelson Mandela, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the UN Security Council would consider sending a peace monitoring force to Zaire if both warring sides agreed to a cease-fire.

"It is not excluded, if there were to be a cease-fire agreement signed by the parties and if it were to hold, that the UN would put in peacekeepers to monitor it," Annan said.