Rwandan troops reportedly in Moba, Katanga Province

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUC, confirmed on Friday it had received reports of the presence of hundreds of Rwandan troops and their Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) allies near Moba, in the northern part of Katanga Province, but that UN observers had not yet been able to verify the accounts.

News reports are of between 400 and 500 Rwandan and RCD troops in the area. If fighting were to break out between these forces and pro-government forces, it could further endanger the efforts to bring about a political and diplomatic solution to the DRC's long-running war, analysts said.

"New fighting could also worsen the humanitarian situation and the free movement of persons and goods on the River Congo, as agreed by the government, the MLC [the Ugandan backed Mouvement pour la liberation du congo]and the RCD," Hamadoun Toure, the MONUC spokesman, told IRIN. To head off renewed fighting and preserve the fragile peace process, he added, MONUC was calling on "all parties to demonstrate restraint".

The peace process took a step back recently when the government in Kinshasa and the former rebel MLC of Jean-Pierre Bemba failed to form a transitional government eight weeks after having agreed to do so at the end of talks in Sun City, South Africa.

The RCD, at the time, described those talks as "a joke", and want a resumption of the inter-Congolese dialogue. However, the DRC minister of communications, Kikaya bin Karubi, told Reuters in Durban, South Africa, on Friday that Kinshasa would not return to the all-party talks on ending the civil war, but rather wanted direct talks with Rwanda.

"We have identified the problem. It is Rwanda. [Rwandan] President [Paul] Kagame says there are security issues to address before his troops pull out of our country, and it is him we have to talk to directly to end the war," Karubi said.