NEW YORK, June 8 (AP)--More than 1.7 million people have died in eastern Congo as a result of the 22-month civil war in the central African country, a U.S. aid group said Thursday.

The International Rescue Committee performed a mortality study in three provinces in eastern Congo to determine the impact of the fighting that began in August 1998 and has brought five foreign armies into the conflict.

"On average, some 2,600 people are dying every day in this war, and our research found that the first months of 2000 were even worse than 1999," the study's author, epidemiologist Les Roberts, said in a statement.

Roberts' research determined that about 600,000 deaths would be expected under normal conditions in Congo, but that since the war started, more than 2.3 million have died. While 200,000 deaths were attributed to violence, the rest were the result of disease and hunger created by the war.

"The loss of life in Congo has been staggering," said Reynold Levy, the president of the International Rescue Committee.

The United Nations has brokered a cease-fire between Congolese President Laurent Kabila and two rebel groups, but fighting continues between Rwandan and Ugandan troops, which support opposing rebel factions.

More than 20 million people live in the five provinces checked by IRC researchers. The group conducted five mortality surveys between April 18 and May 27 to help determine the best aid programs for the region and collect information about the war's impact.

IRC called for increased humanitarian assistance to the region, unfettered access for aid workers and an immediate cease-fire.

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