10 March 2003

Secretary-General Pleased at Agreement by Parties to Inter-Congolese Dialogue But Expresses Deep Concern Over Recent Heavy Fighting Regarding Bunia

NEW YORK, 7 March (UN Headquarters) -- The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

The Secretary-General was pleased to learn that the parties to the inter-Congolese dialogue reached agreement in Pretoria on 6 March 2003 on all outstanding issues relating to the draft transitional constitution, military and security issues. He commends them for the spirit of cooperation and compromise they showed in the interest of peace and stability in their country.

He encourages the Congolese parties to cooperate fully with efforts of the Facilitator, Sir Katumile Masire, to convene the formal session of the inter-Congolese dialogue as soon as possible in order to ratify the agreement and establish the transitional institutions, including the Government of National Unity without further delay.

The Secretary-General expresses his appreciation to the Government of South Africa for the critical role they played in cooperation with his Special Envoy, Mustapha Niasse, to help the Congolese parties reach agreement on the transitional arrangements. He also commends the efforts of his Special Envoy and his team for helping steer the negotiations to a successful conclusion. The United Nations, the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) in particular, stands ready to continue to work closely with the Congolese parties in implementing the All-Inclusive Agreement.

At the same time, the Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the heavy fighting over the control of Bunia which took place recently and the threat it poses to the civilian populations, who have already paid an unacceptably high price in the many years of the conflict. It is extremely disquieting that the fighting could result in a new round of inter-ethnic violence and massacres.

The Secretary-General urges all parties in the strongest possible terms to cease hostilities immediately and stop any acts of violence against civilians, including humanitarian personnel.

The belligerents should be reminded that the pursuit of the military option and human rights violations on any level are unacceptable.

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