Goma - Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo gave the government on Monday 24 hours to open peace talks and pull back its forces or risk an escalation of fighting in the east - some of the worst in four years.
The M23 rebel group, who the UN experts say are backed by neighbouring Rwanda, on Sunday advanced to within 5km of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu province, after pushing back the UN peacekeepers and government troops.
"To allow for a peaceful solution to the current situation, our movement is demanding that the government in Kinshasa... cease its military offensive... demilitarise the town and Goma airport within 24 hours," the statement said.
The Kinshasa government was not immediately available to comment on the deadline but has accused Rwanda of seeking to destabilise the region and control its minerals resources by backing the insurgents.
The rebels say the government has violated the terms of a 2009 peace deal that integrated them into the army, and demanded the government announce direct talks within 24 hours to address their demands.
"The Movement reserves the right to [...] continue its resistance against the government of Kinshasa until its fall" if the government fails to comply, the statement said.