Facebook Twitter

Rebel leader gives Mobutu an ultimatum

SHARE Rebel leader gives Mobutu an ultimatum

Zaire's rebel leader gave President Mobutu Sese Seko an ultimatum Monday: He hands over control of the country in eight days or "perishes with his power."

A day after his first face-to-face meeting with the ailing dictator, rebel leader Laurent Kabila also denied a U.N. envoy's statement that he had agreed to a cease-fire. Kabila said his forces were marching toward Kinshasa, the capital, and were within 40 miles of its airport."He has to choose to relinquish power and he is safeguarded, or he perishes with his power," Kabila, speaking in English, told reporters Monday in his southeastern stronghold, Lubumbashi.

Mobutu returned to Kinshasa Monday morning, where the streets were calm. There were no signs of panic and little evidence the army was preparing to defend the capital of 6 million people.

Meanwhile, U.S. envoy Bill Richardson, who was instrumental in setting up Sunday's talks, returned to the city of Lubumbashi Monday to deliver a message to Kabila from President Clinton. And Kabila denied ever agreeing to a cease-fire while the negotiating process was going on.

Richardson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he stressed the United States' longstanding view that "there should be a peaceful entry into the capital of Kinshasa - a soft landing which avoids violence and chaos."

The United States, he said, also wants an "inclusive" transitional government and fair and open elections.

At Sunday's talks aboard a South African navy vessel docked in the Congolese port of Pointe Noire, the only thing Mobutu and Kabila apparently were able to agree on was that they would meet again.

Mobutu, 66, who is seriously ill with prostate cancer, agreed a transitional authority should be established to organize elections, including the election of a president. He said he would hand over power to an elected authority.

Kabila, whose forces control all but the far north and west of the country, said Mobutu must immediately end his nearly 32-year rule and transfer power to the rebel alliance.

The two men decided to meet again within 10 days, but if Kabila's troops continue to advance westward at their current pace they will be in Kinshasa before then.