U.N. council approves peace plan for Zaire

KINSHASA, Zaire (AP) —Diplomatic efforts to end civil war intensified Tuesday, with African foreign ministers converging on the capital and a U.N. envoy indicating Zaire may be interested in negotiating with the rebels.
The U.N. Security Council in New York, meanwhile, unanimously endorsed a five-point plan Tuesday night to end the fighting in eastern Zaire.
And diplomats from European nations and the United States issued a joint statement in Paris calling for an international conference on Zaire and urging the retreat of all foreign forces.
The Zairian government said it resumed airstrikes on the rebel-held city of Bukavu, but aid workers in Bukavu dismissed the report.
African foreign ministers arrived in Kinshasa for talks with Zairian officials. Before leaving Nairobi, Kenya, the foreign ministers from Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Cameroon, Congo and Zimbabwe said they would prepare the way for a summit of regional leaders to try to end the war. Zaire has refused to attend two such summits, though Prime Minister Leon Kengo wa Dondo said Monday that Zaire supports calls for an international conference on the conflict.
He once again rejected talks with rebels. However, foreign diplomats and Zairian political observers say President Mobutu is facing increased pressure within his party to negotiate with rebel leader Laurent Kabila.
U.N. special envoy Mohamed Sahnoun, who drafted the U.N. peace plan, traveled Saturday to Mobutu’s jungle hideaway in the northwestern town of Gbadolite. He indicated Tuesday that Mobutu and his government might be ready for talks.
“There is a political will to help me in my mission, and my mission is very clear … to focus on the immediate cessation of hostilities,” Sahnoun told a news conference.
Sahnoun, who was to meet with other Zairian government officials before leaving for Rwanda on Wednesday, said he also was willing to meet Kabila.
The peace plan endorsed by the Security Council calls for an immediate end to the fighting in eastern Zaire; the withdrawal of all foreign forces, including mercenaries; reaffirmation of the territorial integrity of all states in the region; protection of refugees; and the convening of an international conference to resolve conflicts in the region.
But Zaire’s acting U.N. ambassador, Khabouji Lukabu, said the plan would be effective only if it was accepted by Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.
Zaire has accused those countries of intervening in support of rebels seeking to topple the government of Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko.
U.S. Ambassador Bill Richardson, casting his first vote as Washington’s new envoy to the world organization, said the United States hoped the resolution would “bring some stability to a very tragic situation in Zaire.”
U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Zairian government airstrikes on three towns — Bukavu, Walikale and Shabunda — that aid workers say killed seven people on Monday should not prevent the negotiation process from beginning.
But Kabila indicated his offer to negotiate may be withdrawn because of the airstrikes. “If this continues, there will be no need for negotiations anymore,” he said.
All seven deaths and more than 20 injuries aid workers reported from Monday’s bombings were in Bukavu. There were no casualty reports available from Shabunda and Walikale, two other towns under the control of Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire.
On Tuesday, Defense Ministry spokesman Leon Kalima said that the government had resumed its assault on Bukavu, but relief workers there denied any bombs had been dropped.
“Our staff reported no bombings Tuesday,” said Paul Stromberg, a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman in neighboring Rwanda.
The U.N. World Food Program, which has workers in Bukavu, also said there were no attacks Tuesday.
Kalima urged civilians to leave rebel-held areas in eastern Zaire.
Kabila’s rebels started the war in September, after Zaire threatened to expel Tutsis who had lived for decades in eastern Zaire.