KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo will form an interim government that includes opposition members, as part of a deal to set up new elections and break a political impasse, Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said.
The announcement came after backers of President Joseph Kabila and some opposition members agreed on Wednesday on the timing of those elections, a question that has caused more than a year of debate and led to violent protests and arrests.
However, most major opposition parties are boycotting the talks. They see them as part of Kabila's plan to justify staying in power beyond the end of his mandate in December, when he is due to step down under the constitution.
"The government will be redone. We will put in place a government that we will co-manage between the presidential majority, the opposition and civil society," said Mwamba, who is representing Kabila's political supporters in the talks.
It was unclear which opposition members would become part of the new government.
Opposition leaders this week walked out of talks on the timing of the presidential election. The vote had been set for November, but the authorities now say it cannot be held before next July.
The opposition had insisted the presidential election should be held next. The government said local elections should come first, which would probably delay the presidential vote further.
The government and a group of opposition parties agreed on Wednesday the presidential vote would be combined with legislative and provincial elections, although no specific dates were set. Local elections will come later.
"This opens the way to a calendar that will mention the exact date of the handover of power between the old president of the republic ... and the newly elected president," said Vital Kamerhe, one of the leading negotiators for the opposition.
Despite the apparent advance in the negotiations, efforts to broker a peaceful exit from power for Kabila, who has led Africa's leading copper producer since the assassination of his father in 2001, remain fragile.
Congo has never experienced a non-violent transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Diplomats and observers fear the crisis could trigger a repeat of civil wars that killed millions of people between 1996 and 2003.
(Reporting by Amédée Mwarabu; Writing by Joe Bavier and Edward McAllister; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Larry King)