A Ugandan government spokesman says the military commander of Congo's M23 rebels "is not a prisoner" in Uganda and may only be handed over to Congolese authorities after a final peace accord has been signed.

Ofwono Opondo said Tuesday that Sultani Makenga, who is the subject of international sanctions for serious crimes, doesn't face immediate arrest in Uganda. He said Makenga is being protected by Ugandan authorities because he surrendered with at least 1,665 of his fighters.

Uganda's neutrality as mediator of the Congo peace talks has been doubtful since a United Nations report said some in its military supported M23. The talks have repeatedly stalled, and a planned accord-signing ceremony Monday was postponed after Congolese officials asked for more time to review the final document.