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US offers US$30 mil. to Congo for democracy-building, stability aid

KINSHASA, Congo -- The United States is prepared to give Congo US$30 million in aid for stability and democracy-building — but wants President Joseph Kabila to agree to step down at the end of his current term in office, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday.

Kerry said Congo's government also needs to schedule elections soon. The vote is tentatively set for 2016, although a firm date has not yet been set.

In a private Sunday meeting, Kerry said he urged Kabila to follow Congo's constitution in the upcoming elections, which would prohibit him from running for a third consecutive term as president.

It was not clear if Kabila agreed. Kerry also said he urged Kabila to lift a freeze on international adoptions of Congolese orphans.

“It is important to the people to be able to know what the process is, to have confidence in that process,” Kerry told reporters after the meeting. “The sooner the process is announced, the sooner that the date is set, the sooner people have an ability to be able to participate. And we believe it ought to be done in keeping with the constitutional process of the country.”

Reached for comment, Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said the constitution would be respected, but also suggested it could be revised.

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