The leaders of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda at the behest of the United States have jointly called on M23 rebels to vacate Goma, the eastern Congolese city the rebels captured on Tuesday.
In statement issued from Uganda's capital Kampala after their two-day summit, the presidents of the three countries - Congo's Joseph Kabila, Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni - also said they opposed the M23' intention to overthrow the Democratic Republic of Congo's government.
The rebels had previously said they would march on Kinshasa, 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away.
A Ugandan foreign ministry spokesman, James Mugume, said: "The rebels were told to … resume the negotiations instead of resorting to aggression. The leaders agreed to launch negotiations as soon as possible."
Kabila changes tack
The appeal follows what appeared to be an about-turn by Congo's President Kabila, who stated that he would look into rebel grievances. The M23 has said that Kabila had failed to grant them posts in the Congolese army in line with a 2009 peace deal.
Kabila said the "turbulence" had been evaluated in a report submitted by the three governments' foreign ministers and steps recommended would be implemented.
Kabila's government had previously rejected direct talks with the M23, who with Rwanda, were widely accused of collusion. Rwanda had denied supporting the rebels.
Late on Tuesday, the UN Security Council in a resolution had condemned the M23's occupation of Goma and demanded that it withdraw and that the rebel group lay down its arms and "permanently disband."
US 'supported' dialogue
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the US had "supported" the dialogue in Kampala.
"We have been very clear and vocal about our condemnation of M23 actions in the previous few days. We want to see them immediately withdraw from Goma and cease any further advances and permanently disband," Toner said.
He also reiterated that "we condemn any and all outside support of M23, any military assistance to the rebels in violation to the UN arms embargo."
The International Red Cross said it had received wounded people at Goma's hospital and had evacuated nine casualties for treatment.
A spokesman for UN peacekeeping troops in the Goma region, Madnodje Mounoubai, when asked why the UN had failed to stop the capture of Goma, said: "Our mission in Goma was to support the national army to fight the rebels and protect civilians" and not to attack the rebels.
He said Goma was "calm" and the rebels had asked residents to "return to their activities."
ipj/dr (dpa, AFP, Reuters)
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