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Violence should not disturb Congo election -Kabila

Written by: Staff

PARIS, March 15 (Reuters) Violence in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo should not disturb planned elections in the vast central African country, President Joseph Kabila was quoted as saying today.

Polls scheduled for June 18 are the cornerstone of a series of peace deals signed in 2003 by political and military organisations involved in Congo's five-year war, which sucked in six neighbouring countries.

Despite the official end to the war and the presence of the UN's largest peacekeeping force -- nearly 17,000 soldiers and policemen -- integration of rebels into the army is stalling and various militias are still fighting in the mineral rich east.

''I don't think this violence is of a nature to disturb the elections,'' Kabila told French daily Le Figaro.

''We will do all for the elections not to be disturbed by armed groups,'' Kabila said, adding that insecurity in the east of the country was confined to some provinces.

The UN's top peacekeeper Jean-Marie Guehenno said on Tuesday that some Congolese political parties appeared reluctant to head towards historic elections, noting that if major players pulled out of the polls it would lead to further violence.

Asked whether the international community was doing enough to assure secure elections, Kabila said: ''Sufficient (efforts)? No. Not yet because the problems persist.

''There remains a lot to do. What is essential right now is for us to stabilise the situation more and more every day.'' The fragility of the peace process has prompted a call for the European Union to send soldiers to secure the elections.

The EU has failed to finalise an agreement but initial plans point to the deployment of several hundred soldiers in advance, with a much larger force positioned ''over the horizon'', should they need to be sent in to restore order.

Reuters HS BST1615

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