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'Deal' to end DR Congo war

PRETORIA, South Africa -- Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have reached an agreement on ending their conflict, South African officials have announced.

Delegates from the two countries have been meeting in Pretoria for five days to try to end their fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has killed an estimated 2 million people since 1998, mostly from starvation and disease.

The war in DR Congo has dragged in five other countries including Rwanda and Uganda on the anti-government side and Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia fighting alongside DR Congo troops.

"An understanding has been reached," South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma told a news conference.

CNN's Johannesburg Bureau Chief Charlayne Hunter-Gault says that the deal provides for the immediate withdrawal of Rwandan troops from DR Congo.

DR Congo in return pledges to round up and disarm Rwandan rebels sheltering in the east of the country. Rwanda says one of its main reasons for being in DR Congo is the presence also of the militias.

If the deal is approved the two presidents could sign the peace agreement in South Africa next week.

Zuma said: "There is no reason why there should be any doubt that the principals should accept the agreement."

Human rights workers said on Saturday that Rwandan troops and allied Congolese rebels had forced tens of thousands of fellow ethnic Tutsis and other civilians from their homes in eastern Congo.

They said as many as 40,000 people had been forced to move during heavy fighting between the Rwandan army and Patrick Masunzu, a former rebel commander who defected from the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) earlier this year.

Rwandan and Congolese government delegates had agreed to meet this week in South Africa in the latest round of talks brokered to reach a broad peace after Kinshasa and Ugandan-backed rebels struck a power-sharing deal earlier this year, leaving out the RCD.

The former Zaire has been engulfed in war since Laurent Kabila's rebel forces swept westwards across the country to overthrow veteran dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997.

In January 2001 President Laurent Kabila was assassinated and replaced by his son, Joseph Kabila.




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