WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States condemned "reprehensible attacks" on civilians in Mozambique on Thursday and expressed concern about escalating violence between the army and opposition party Renamo.
"We condemn the use of violence to address political differences and call on all parties to immediately end the hostilities and take decisive and visible steps to de-escalate growing tensions," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
Washington's repudiation comes amid growing concerns that recent fighting in the southern African nation could spark a wider conflict. So far, the violence has been mostly focused several hundred miles (kilometers) north of the capital Maputo.
On Wednesday, Renamo said the army was targeting its leader after President Armando Guebuza said the former rebel group was threatening national sovereignty with renewed attacks on civilians, police and army posts.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the reprehensible attacks on innocent civilians," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki wrote.
This week, the Mozambique army captured another Renamo jungle camp in central Sofala province, military officials said.
"We are troubled by the confrontations in Sofala province, and the expansion of clashes beyond that region," Psaki said.
The United States welcomed earlier statements by both the government and the opposition calling for talks, she added, and urged the parties to pursue a peaceful solution.
Mozambique fought a civil war from 1975-1992 between Renamo and the ruling Frelimo party.
Renamo has lost every election since 1992 but still holds some seats in parliament. It wants the government to reform the electoral system and end what it says is Frelimo's misuse of the police and army for political ends.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu)