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Mbeki, Solana bolster process for second-round polls

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Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Joseph Kabila at an earlier meeting.

KINSHASA, 11 Sep 2006 (IRIN) - South African President Thabo Mbeki began discussions on Monday with the two presidential finalists about the run-off election due next month in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mbeki, whose country has been instrumental in guiding the DRC to democratic elections, met Joseph Kabila, president of the transitional government. He will also have talks with Jean-Pierre Bemba, Kabila's rival for the presidency and one of the four vice-presidents in the current government.

Neither Mbeki nor Kabila made a statement after their meeting but vice-president Arthur Z'Ahidi Ngoma, whom Mbeki also met, welcomed the South African intervention. "I want to thank President Thabo Mbeki because each time there is a problem he comes to help solve it," Ngoma said.

The European Union foreign policy and security chief, Javier Solana, also arrived in Kinshasa for a day-long visit aimed at shoring up the electoral process. "The purpose of Javier Solana's visit is to try to get the transition back on the rails," Bernard Piette, the first adviser at the European Commission in Kinshasa, said.

In the same vein, Hilary Benn, the UK secretary of state for international development, is also in Kinshasa and has met President Kabila.

Rivalry between Kabila and Bemba erupted in fighting in Kinshasa on 20 August shortly before the Independent Electoral Commission issued preliminary election results, and as Bemba was on his way to his television station to deliver a statement. The following day, members of Kabila's presidential guards attacked Bemba's home while he was meeting ambassadors.

The pair face off on 29 October. Kabila won the first round with 44.8 percent of the votes and Bemba 20 percent, against the required 50 percent plus one vote to be declared the outright winner. Both men agreed to set up committees to investigate the fighting and to work out rules for a run-off.

On Monday, Mbeki also held discussions with the chairman of the electoral commission, Apollinaire Malumalu. In addition, two of Bemba's television and radio stations returned to the airwaves, having been closed since 20 August, just before the release of the provisional poll results.

[DRC: Parliamentary polls results out, no party gains majority]

ei/oss/mw


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