No Negotiations

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POINTE-NOIRE, Congo: Rebel leader Laurent Kabila abruptly called off scheduled peace talks with Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko. A spokesman said Kabila canceled the meeting aboard a South African naval ship docked in Pointe-Noire out of concerns for his security in the city. Exasperated South African officials who had arranged the talks said Kabila demanded the ship be in international waters before he boarded. The move is another in a recent series of downturns as the successful battle leader has trouble making the transition to statesman. He lost points internationally two weeks ago when he was unable (or unwilling) to stop his troops from massacring Hutu refugees near Kisangani, and he set an impossible 60-day deadline for the repatriation of the refugees to Rwanda. More important, Kabila's recalcitrance could also cause problems with Nelson Mandela. The South African President, who has emerged as a major regional power broker, was one of the first African leaders to recognize Kabila. To get Kabila attend talks with Mobutu two weeks ago, Mandela had to make it clear he would regard failure to do so as a personal affront. "Mandela is the one who matters to Kabila, and we don't yet know what's going on there," says TIME's Marguerite Michaels. "The bottom line is, Kabila doesn't want to share power. Although no one wants this, and talks may still take place, it looks like it will end militarily." With rebel forces reportedly only 60 miles from Kinshasa, the end could come soon.