Reuters International

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein attends the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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GENEVA (Reuters) - The top United Nations human rights official called on Friday for an international investigation into massacres and other crimes committed in Democratic Republic of Congo's Kasai region where at least 42 mass graves have been found.

The call sets up the possibility of a diplomatic confrontation between the United Nations and the government of President Joseph Kabila.

Hundreds have been killed and 1.3 million displaced in central Congo since last August in fighting between a militia and government forces. Violence has risen nationally since Kabila decided to stay in power beyond the December 2016 end of his mandate.

In response to a Thursday deadline by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein for Congo to agree to a joint probe, the government said it would accept U.N. technical assistance but wanted to retain control of the inquiry.

In a statement on Friday, Zeid said the government "response to date falls short" and urged the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is holding a session until June 23, to act.

"The international community is throwing its weight behind ensuring that the endemic impunity in the DRC is brought to an end," he said. Congo's government spokesman and human rights minister could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Aaron Ross in Kinshasa; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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