Congolese and United Nations troops pushed back the M23 rebel group, forcing it back to the negotiating table and removing a threat to the city of Goma, the UN peacekeeping chief has said.

Herve Ladsous on Thursday called the military action a "very significant achievement" that inflicted casualties on the M23 and likely led the rebels to resume talks with the government in neighboring Uganda's capital, Kampala.

"The M23 group has been pushed back towards the north to such a place that it does not any more pose the direct threat that it had posed for such a long time either on the city of Goma'' or surrounding camps for displaced people and UN positions, the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

M23, which the United Nations says has received support from neighboring Rwanda, launched an assault on Goma last month, sparking fierce battles with government forces.

Aided by UN peacekeeping troops and the new UN intervention brigade, Congolese troops pounded rebel positions and reclaimed several areas that had been occupied by the M23 until the rebels unexpectedly declared a cease-fire, saying they wanted to resume talks.

In a Security Council meeting, Ladsous said that with the resumption of talks "diplomacy has become again the order of the day."

'Licking their wounds'

"M23 has suffered casualties" and withdrew to "lick their wounds," Ladsous told reporters after UN Security Council talks on DR Congo.

UN forces have strengthened their positions around Goma and it was "no surprise" that M23 has returned to peace talks with the government in the Ugandan capital, he added.

Mary Robinson, UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region, told the Security Council that M23 had offered to disarm if rival anti-Rwandan rebels operating in the region also laid down their arms, according to diplomats in the meeting.

A Security Council statement released after Thursday's meeting expressed "concern" at the tensions in eastern DR Congo and said all signatories of the political cooperation accord had to "fulfill their commitments in good faith".

Source: Agencies