Southern African leaders on Sunday resolved to provide "immediate assistance" to the Army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) against Congolese rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's forces, dpa reported.
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) said it would deploy a peacekeeping force in Congo "if necessary."
The Johannesburg summit of the regional group, in which Congo is a member, was attended by heads of member governments, who resolved that "SADC should immediately provide assistance to the armed forces of the DRC."
Congo's government armed forces "need to be assisted in order to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country," according to a communique from the meeting, which was attended by Congolese President Laurent Kabila.
The summit resolved to "immediately" send a team of military experts to assess the situation in eastern Congo.
SADC blamed the "intransigence" of renegade general Nkunda for the breakdown of past regional peace agreements.
"SADC would not stand by and witness incessant and destructive acts of violence by any armed groups against innocent people of DRC," the southern African leaders said at the end of a more than eight hour meeting called chiefly to discuss Zimbabwe.
"If and when necessary," SADC would send a peacekeeping force into Kivu province, where the fighting is concentrated, the communique said.