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M23 rebels agree to pull out of Goma

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By AFP

Posted  Tuesday, November 27  2012 at  11:52
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UPDATE: M23 Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to withdraw completely from the city of Goma by midday Thursday, Uganda's army chief said, after the group earlier set new demands for a pullout.

"By midday November 27 the M23 begins withdrawal through Goma to a selected ground of tactical importance, while leaving a company of 100 at the airport," Aronda Nyakairima told reporters.

"This withdrawal to be completed within 48 hours."

M23 military leader Sultani Makenga said the rebels would pull out by Friday.

"Tomorrow or the day after... in three days at the latest we will leave Goma," Makenga told AFP. "We were asked to withdraw 20 kilometres (12 miles) and we will do it, there is no problem."

The announcement follows earlier declarations by M23 political leader Jean-Marie Runiga that the rebels would only withdraw if the government met their demands, including dissolving the country's election commission.

However, Aronda said Makenga had attached "no conditions" to the withdrawal agreement, but had only raised concerns about the need for a formal ceasefire agreement and the security of the population in the areas they leave.

"They are so concerned that maybe once they leave those areas some of their people will be killed," Nyakairima added.

The deal in Uganda was struck late Monday with M23's military chief along with regional military commanders, who will visit Goma on Friday to monitor progress of the promised withdrawal.

"All the chiefs of the defence staff" of the 11-member bloc, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), "will convene in Goma to evaluate the situation to find out whether all these timelines were met, and whether there have been violations," Nyakairima said.

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UPDATE: The M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo said Tuesday they would only withdraw from Goma if the government meets their demands, despite earlier announcing they would pull out of the key eastern city.

The M23 wants the government to dissolve the country's election commission and ensure freedom of movement for opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi among other demands "before a pullout", political leader Jean-Marie Runiga told a press conference in Goma.

"If that is done," he said, the M23 will leave Goma "very quickly."

A senior rebel commander had told AFP earlier that the M23 would withdraw from the city which the rebels captured a week ago, "in order to start negotiations with the government".

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