Representatives from the 15 UNSC member states have begun a week of talks with leaders from Africa's Great Lakes region.

The talks are being held in an effort to halt the violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which the armies of many neighbouring countries have been involved.

The envoys are also due to visit the town of Bunia in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where French UN troops are trying stop fighting between rival tribes and rebel militias.

Over the weekend they looked on helplessly as fighting again erupted in the town after a two-week lull. Hema and Lendu rebels armed with guns and machetes have been rampaging through Bunia, raping and looting.

Thousands of people have fled their homes. Those who had returned before Saturday's fighting have again taken to the road. Some have been fortunate enough to find food and a little measure of safety in camps.

Hundreds of French troops are now pouring into neighbouring Uganda, to bolster the existing force, which will eventually reach 1,400 and which is authorised to kill if necessary.

The deployment is part of the United Nations' limited response to the brutal war which has been raging for five years in the massive country. An estimated three million people, including many civilians, have been killed.