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British, French ministers visit war-torn region

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, began a three-day tour of to the Great Lakes region on Monday. Both men arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and are scheduled to travel to Burundi and Rwanda on Tuesday, followed by Uganda on Wednesday, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported. Their visit, it said, was to promote peace in the region; to push for progress on the Lusaka and Arusha peace accords for the Congo and Burundi respectively; to encourage territorial respect for the Congo and to confirm British and French aid commitments to the region. "The United Kingdom and France were once rivals in Africa but in the 21st century we know we can achieve more together than we can alone," Straw said in French ministry statement released on Friday. Referring to the 1999 Lusaka peace accord for the Congo, Straw said that he and Vedrine would push for progress on the three main elements of the accord. "One is the withdrawal of foreign troops from the Congo, the second is the demobilisation of rebels and militias, and the third is the more rapid promotion of inter-Congolese dialogue," AFP quoted him as saying. A British Foreign Office spokesman said Straw and Vedrine would not visit the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-controlled area of eastern Congo - struck by a volcanic eruption on Thursday - because of rebel activity in the area, news agencies reported. The joint visit by the two powers who carved up Africa in the late 19th century, is the second by their foreign ministers since France and Britain agreed in 1998 to bury their historic rivalry and work together to support peace in Africa.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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