DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania is ready to take on Rwandan rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Jakaya Kikwete said, suggesting a joint offensive with U.N.-backed, South African forces is imminent.
In a statement issued late on Tuesday after talks with South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Kikwete dismissed talk he was reluctant to send in troops against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The United Nations Security Council backed plans a week ago for a 3,000-strong South African, Tanzanian and Malawian intervention force to begin military operations against the guerrilla group, which has been at the heart of years of conflict in central Africa's Great Lakes.
"There are people who pretend to read Tanzania's mind," Kikwete said.
"They claim that Tanzania has no intention of taking on rebel groups in the DRC. These are bizarre people because Tanzania, like South Africa and Malawi, has troops in the DRC with a firm United Nations mandate."
South African President Jacob Zuma was in Luanda on Wednesday for talks with his Angolan counterpart, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, that are expected to focus on security in eastern Congo, home to an estimated 1,400 seasoned FDLR guerrillas.
The militia, which includes ethnic Hutu soldiers responsible for carrying out Rwanda's 1994 genocide, failed to meet a January deadline to disarm and surrender.
South Africa's foreign ministry did not comment on Zuma's discussions. But in a statement after the U.N. Security Council backed military action, Pretoria said it was committed to the "neutralization of negative forces in the eastern DRC".
The United Nations has been under pressure to take out remaining guerrilla movements in eastern Congo after the intervention force defeated a 5,000-strong force of M23 rebels in 2013.
However, its Office for the Coordiation for Humanitarian Affairs said the offensive being planned with the assistance of Congolese government troops would affect hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Earlier this month, U.N. and Congolese forces launched strikes against remnants of a smaller Burundian rebel group that a diplomat said was aimed at clearing the way for an offensive against the FDLR.
(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Writing by Ed Cropley, Editing by Angus MacSwan)