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Officials Appeal for Calm in Congo After Kinshasa Gunbattles

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VOA News - August 22, 2006

Two men throw stones at a UN car as they run after it in the streets of Kinshasa, Aug. 21, 2006<br /><br />
Two men throw stones at a UN car as they run after it in the streets of Kinshasa, Aug. 21, 2006
Officials are appealing for calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after three days of gunbattles between supporters of the two main presidential candidates.

Witnesses say forces loyal to Congo President Joseph Kabila and those of his challenger Jean-Pierre Bemba exchanged more gunfire Tuesday near Mr. Bemba's villa in the capital, Kinshasa.

Troops with the United Nations force in Congo had to rescue foreign diplomats who were inside the villa when a battle broke out in the same area on Monday.

Tuesday, U.N. mission chief William Swing urged the sides to stop shooting and begin a dialogue, while the European Commission envoy, Louis Michel, called for a halt to all military provocation.

The fighting began late Sunday, after Congo's electoral commission said no candidate had received a majority in the July 30 election, and that Mr. Kabila and Mr. Bemba would face each other in a late-October runoff.

Officers with the European Union force in Congo said Tuesday they are sending more troops to Kinshasa in hopes of stemming the violence. The additional troops include a contingent of German soldiers who had been on standby in Gabon.

The EU force was set up before the polls to help 17,000 U.N. troops in Congo keep the peace in case of election-related violence.

Each side has blamed the other for this week's clashes in Kinshasa. There have been unconfirmed reports of casualties.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

 


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