Official: UN planning to act on its own against Congo rebels

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is planning to go ahead and take action against a rebel group in eastern Congo even without the full cooperation of the Congo military, the U.N. peacekeeping chief said Thursday, as relations remain chilly with the country's authorities.

Herve Ladsous told reporters that the peacekeeping mission would need at least enough cooperation from the Congo military to avoid the risk of friendly fire if both the U.N. and Congo take on the rebels known as the FDLR.

The U.N. this year backed out of a planned joint operation, saying the two Congolese generals in charge have been involved in "massive human rights violations."

Ladsous said his recent visit to Congo brought no improvement on that issue.

Congo's president also wants the peacekeeping mission cut dramatically beyond the reduction of 2,000, or about 20 percent, planned this year. But Ladsous said that has to depend on the security situation and progress against the multiple armed groups in the mineral-rich region.

A new concern is renewed violence against the U.N. mission, with two Tanzanian peacekeepers killed and 13 wounded in an ambush by suspected rebels Tuesday. On Monday, gunfire hit a helicopter carrying the mission's force commander.

Ladous, who took no questions from reporters, said he had made offers to the Congo government with the aim of being able to cooperate jointly again with its military against the FDLR, but the government has not responded.

The peacekeeping mission in Congo, the largest for the U.N., includes a force intervention brigade with a unique mandate to take offensive military action against rebel groups that have plagued the vast region since the Rwanda genocide two decades ago.

Ladsous reminded reporters that the Security Council in the past "has empowered us to act unilaterally, and we are planning to that effect, but it's true that we do need at least a minimum level of cooperation from the Congolese army."

He said he hopes the mission can resume operations "at the soonest" against both the FDLR and the ADF rebel group, which the U.N. suspects of carrying out Monday's ambush.

The FDLR was formed by extremist Rwandan Hutus who fled across the border after taking part in the Rwanda genocide. The ADF are Islamist rebel fighters led by Ugandan commanders.

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