UN weighs new sanctions as DR Congo awaits rebel pullout

DR Congo army chief Gabriel Amisi suspended
M23 rebels run towards Sake, 26km west of Goma, as thousands of residents flee fresh fighting in the eastern DR Congo November 22, 2012. They have made no major moves to withdraw from the volatile region.  FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Congolese rebels have made no major moves to withdraw from the key eastern city of Goma, the United Nations said Wednesday, issuing a new call for foreign countries to stop meddling in the volatile region.

The M23 rebels -- army mutineers whose rampant advance through eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has raised fears of wider conflict and humanitarian catastrophe -- have pledged to leave Goma by the end of the week, presenting the government with a list of demands in return.

But while the rebels said they had begun withdrawing, deputy UN spokesman Eduardo del Buey said the local UN mission in DR Congo "reports that there has not yet been any major movement by M23 out of Goma".

There were however "signs that the M23 are preparing to withdraw" in line with a deal brokered by African army chiefs, he said.

Residents had earlier said dozens of trucks carrying food and ammunition had left the North Kivu Province capital.

Goma is the main city in the Kivu region abutting Rwanda and Uganda, and has been the flashpoint for two past wars fought largely over control of its vast mineral wealth, including copper, diamonds, gold and key cell phone component coltan.

Rwanda and Uganda played active roles in the back-to-back conflicts from 1996 to 2003, and the UN has accused them of backing the M23 -- a charge both countries deny.

The UN on Wednesday repeated its call for an end to foreign interference, backing it up with the threat of sanctions as demanded by the DR Congo government.

The UN Security Council passed a French-drafted resolution saying it would consider sanctions against more M23 leaders and "those providing external support", though it did not name any country.

The dramatic escalation in the M23 uprising since it was launched in April has heightened international fears of a fresh conflict and a major humanitarian crisis, with reports of atrocities and tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting.

Rights groups and UN officials have accused the rebels of killing, raping and abducting civilians.

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