KINSHASA - Hopes of a deal to end DR Congo's dangerous political crisis before Christmas were fast dissipating on Saturday after fruitless all-night talks over President Joseph Kabila's refusal to quit power.
Kabila's second and final five-year term ended on December 20, but he has shown no intention of leaving office soon, sparking violent protests that have left at least 40 people dead this week, according to the United Nations.
The influential Catholic Church has been brokering talks between the government and opposition and hopes rose this week of an imminent deal, with a draft seen by AFP news agency outlining plans for fresh elections at the end of next year, when Kabila would step down.
But that optimism has been slipping, and negotiators from the two camps left church offices in Kinshasa just before 5:30am local time without a deal to prevent a fresh descent into a new political crisis.
"The work is practically finished - the final touches are all that is left to do before the deal is signed," insisted Marcel Utembi, president of the Congo National Episcopal Conference (CENCO), who had pushed for a deal before Christmas.
But others indicated there was still a long way to go.