The U.N. Security Council on Thursday urged President Joseph Kabila to sign a military plan for a joint offensive with U.N. troops to drive out Hutu rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The 15-member council threatened to impose sanctions on supporters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who have ignored a January 2 deadline to surrender.
The appeal from the council came a day after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke by phone with Kabila to urge him to take "decisive action" against the FDLR rebels.
The U.N.'s 20,000-strong MONUSCO force is preparing operations to expel the rebels, but the mission's success hinges on an active role by the Congolese government troops.
U.N. officials say Kabila's government must be ready, once the operation gets under way, to send in troops and police to secure territory in the restive east to prevent the FDLR from regaining a foothold.
"The Security Council calls on the authorities of the DRC and in particular, President Kabila as commander in chief, to approve swiftly and implement fully the MONUSCO-FARDC joint directive," said a council statement.
The United Nations is pushing for the disarming of dozens of rebel and splinter groups after two decades of conflict in the eastern DR Congo, much of it fueled by the lucrative trade in minerals.
Rwanda has demanded the disarming of the FDLR, some of whose members took part in atrocities in the 1994 Rwandan genocide before crossing into DR Congo, after it dropped its support for rebel M23 fighters last year.
The council said in its unanimous statement that operations against the FDLR must start "immediately."
"The U.N., the Democratic Republic of Congo and regional governments must now hold firm on their commitment to take immediate action to disarm the FDLR once and for all," said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power.
"Twenty years after the genocide in Rwanda, there should be no further preconditions or delays in bringing the FDLR's long history of brutality and impunity to an end," she said.
African regional leaders are due to discuss the planned offensive at a summit in Luanda on January 15-16.
A U.S. official emphasized that both Kabila and regional leaders are expected to hold to their commitment to support military action against the rebels.
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