Congo rebels set 24-hour deadline for talks with government

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo Mon Nov 19, 2012 5:47am EST

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov 19 (Reuters) - R ebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo gave the government on Monday 24 hours to open peace talks and pull back its forces or risk an escalation of fighting in the east - some of the worst in four years.

The M23 rebel group, who U.N. experts say are backed by neighbouring Rwanda, on Sunday advanced to within 5 km of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu province, after pushing back U.N. peacekeepers and government troops.

"To allow for a peaceful solution to the current situation, our movement is demanding that the government in Kinshasa... cease its military offensive... demilitarise the town and Goma airport within 24 hours," the statement said.