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GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - A military solution is not the only way to end decades of conflict in eastern Congo, the newly appointed United Nations special envoy to the region said on Tuesday as the world body prepared to bolster its peacekeeping mission there.
Former Irish president Mary Robinson was visiting the region for the first time since being appointed U.N. special envoy charged with helping bring an end to the violence, which has left millions dead and the mineral-rich nation in ruins.
The latest year-long rebellion to sweep the Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern borders has prompted the U.N. to add an a 3,000-strong "intervention force" to its existing 17,000 mission.
The so-called Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) is the first of its kind from the traditional peacekeeping force and is charged with neutralizing rebel militias, but Robinson said it must not detract from the search for a sustainable political solution.
"There's no doubt these armed groups have to be dealt with, but I think it's important that this does not become a focus on a military solution, (and) that we're implementing the political steps that have been committed to," she said during a visit to the city of Goma, the epicenter for the recent fighting.
Robinson was appointed to support the implementation of a peace framework signed by 11 heads of state in Addis Ababa earlier this year.
Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Michael Roddy