* Kabila says no doubt on poll credibility
* Catholic leader says results “do not conform to the truth”
* Supreme Court to rule on results by Dec. 17, complaint lodged (Adds comment from election commission, U.N.)
By Jonny Hogg
KINSHASA, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila on Monday conceded “mistakes” had been made in last month’s election which returned him to power, but rejected mounting criticism that the results lacked credibility.
A leader of Congo’s highly-influential Catholic Church said the results handing Kabila victory over challenger Etienne Tshisekedi in the Nov. 28 vote “do not conform to the truth”.
The U.S.-based Carter Center, which monitors polls around the world, said on Saturday the results “lack credibility”.
Kabila brushed off the doubts, and the head of the election commission said any irregularities during the poll were not enough to have changed the outcome.
“The credibility of these elections cannot be put in doubt. Were there mistakes? Definitely, but (the Carter Center) has definitely gone far beyond what was expected,” Kabila told a news conference in Kinshasa.
The vote was meant to move the central African country towards greater stability after a 1998-2003 war that killed more than five million people. Instead it was marked by violence and chaotic preparations in addition to the allegations of fraud.
Veteran opposition challenger Tshisekedi called the outcome “a provocation” and said he considered himself Congo’s new president. Another opposition challenger, Vital Kamerhe, said he had lodged a formal complaint with the Supreme Court charged with ratifying the results.
The United Nations mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, called on the election body to take the complaints seriously.
“MONUSCO strongly urges (the electoral commission) to undertake a timely and rigorous review of the issues raised by observer missions with the full participation of witnesses and observers,” it said in a statement.
Kabila took nearly 49 percent of the votes to Tshisekedi’s roughly 32 percent, the election commission announced on Friday, but inconsistencies abound. Gunfire erupted in parts of Congo at the weekend and the opposition has said it plans new protests.
“These results do not conform to the truth or to justice,” Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, the archbishop of Kinshasa, said in a statement issued to the press. The Church had the largest network of independent observers during the election and is an influential player in the overwhelmingly Christian country.
In one district of the southern province of Katanga where Kabila has strong support, voter turnout was recorded at 100.14 percent with Kabila winning 99.98 percent of the votes.
The election commission website also showed that the results from nearly 2,000 polling stations in the capital Kinshasa, an opposition stronghold, had not been tallied.
Kabila pointed to his own disappointing scores in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu as proof that the election process had been transparent and said Tshisekedi’s self-declaration as poll winner was not a surprise.
“Am I uncomfortable with the results? Definitely not ... We wanted to score better in some provinces, especially in North and South Kivu. So we lost some and we won some,” he said.
The European Union and the United States have urged calm as Congo waits for its Supreme Court to decide whether to validate results from the vote, Congo’s second since the war.
Diplomats fear an escalation of the dispute but Kabila, who assumed power in 2001 after his father Laurent was assassinated at the height of the war, said it was business as usual.
“We don’t have a crisis in this country ... We’re going to stay calm and continue with the day-to-day activities of the state,” he said, reaffirming his confidence that the economy will see double-digit growth in the next two to three years.
Without spelling out what any talks could entail, Kabila suggested he and his party would be ready for dialogue with opponents once the Supreme Court had given its verdict on the results, as it must do before a deadline of Dec. 17.
“We have always been for dialogue, but what are the issues? Do we have any subjects to discuss? ... We can only do that when the Supreme Court gives its final verdict,” he said.
Addressing allegations his security forces had used live rounds in some clashes with protesters, Kabila denied they had used excessive force. No official death toll has been issued but separate reports suggest at least 20 people have died in election-related violence in the run-up to the poll and beyond.
“Have we seen violence from the security forces?” said Kabila. “I don’t think so. If we’d seen that we would have had tens or hundreds of deaths.” (Writing by Mark John and Richard Valdmanis; editing by Alistair Lyon)