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Power struggle grips Zaire as premier resigns

SHARE Power struggle grips Zaire as premier resigns

The resignation of Zaire's prime minister underscores the power struggle that is under way as the government faces an insurgency that has left much of eastern Zaire in rebel hands.

State TV said Monday night that President Mobutu Sese Seko had accepted the resignation of his hand-picked prime minister, Leon Kengo wa Dondo, and Kengo's government.Lawmakers planned to meet Tuesday to lay the groundwork for a transitional government. Parliament voted to oust Kengo a week ago, accusing him of not being tough enough on the Tutsi-backed rebels who have captured nearly a third of the mineral-rich central African nation. Kengo's mother is a Rwandan Tutsi.

"We've always been ready to do anything that would lead to a resolution of the Zairian crisis," said Zola Kinkela, secretary-general of Kengo's political party, the Union of Independent Democrats.

Mobutu, 66 and ailing with prostate cancer, called on Kengo to do what he could to allow the seating of a new government.

Supporters of Etienne Tshisekedi, a popular opposition leader and longtime Mobutu foe, say he should take over as prime minister and begin talks with the rebels. Parliament elected Tshisekedi prime minister in 1992, but Mobutu refused to confirm him and instead backed Kengo for the job.

Tshisekedi has pledged to negotiate with rebel leader Laurent Kabila, form a coalition government and prepare the country for its first multiparty elections.