GOMA, Congo, Oct 17 (Reuters) Congo's army has orders to forcibly disarm soldiers loyal to renegade General Laurent Nkunda, President Joseph Kabila said today, but he declined to say when the offensive would begin.
''The armed forces ... have received the green light to begin or rather to prepare the forced disarmament of Mr Nkunda and those who remain with him,'' Kabila told a news conference in Goma, capital of the eastern province of North Kivu.
''I won't give you the date for these operations to start but the army has already been given its mission to disarm these people,'' he said.
Kabila said the operation would not necessarily begin immediately but made clear he hoped to definitively pacify the violence-torn province on Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern border with Uganda and Rwanda by the end of the year.
Nkunda's forces have battled government troops in North Kivu since August, forcing thousands of civilians from their homes.
The United Nations made a last-ditch appeal on Monday for the renegade soldiers to rejoin the national army after Nkunda ignored a government deadline to disband his forces in the east.
REUTERS PD HS1755