Rebels Wednesday rejected the new government and its call for a cease-fire and pressed their offensive closer to the capital despite the resignation of President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Residents told of seeing and hearing army tanks, armored personnel carriers and trucks moving through Addis Ababa before dawn, apparently heading west to bolster the city's outer defenses.Some residents also told of seeing soldiers straggling into the capital from the west. The accounts could not be confirmed.

The rebels claim they have advanced to within 35 miles of Addis Ababa.

The capital remained calm Wednesday, with shoppers in the streets and businesses open as usual.

In a clandestine radio broadcast, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front said the new interim president, Lt. Gen. Tesfaye Gebre-Kidan, an ex-defense minister, is "part and parcel" of the former Mengistu regime.

Mengistu, one of Africa's most ruthless leaders, resigned Tuesday and fled to Zimbabwe.

The radio also appealed to the Joint Relief Partnership to resume food deliveries to an estimated 7 million famine victims. The deliveries were forced to stop last weekend when fighting broke out on the main highway from Addis Ababa to Assab, the last Red Sea port in government hands.

The Joint Relief Partnership is a church coalition that coordinates distribution of relief supplies from governments and private donors in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

"We will provide every protection," the rebel broadcast said. It appealed to the Ethiopian air force not to bomb food convoys.

The new government has called for an immediate cease-fire and said it would go to U.S.-brokered peace talks scheduled in London on Monday prepared to discuss an interim government representing all parties in Ethiopia.

The impoverished, drought-plagued Horn of African nation of 51 million is home to dozens of tribes and approximately a dozen opposition movements.

The front, composed primarily of members of the Tigrean tribe, and Eritrean insurgents have been the most active and significant groups. They control roughly the northern third of the country and have made dramatic battlefield gains since late February.

The rebels refuse to stop fighting until a transitional government is formed.

The rebel radio Wednesday claimed to have killed 5,600 government troops while advancing on Addis Alem, 35 miles west of the capital.

That was 12 miles closer than their last reported position on the main road leading from the capital to the country's west-central provinces.

The claim could not be independently confirmed.

The radio said a sister rebel organization, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, had taken the town of Dekemehare, 25 miles south of Asmara, the capital of Ethiopia's northernmost province, Eritrea.

Western military observers said that would put the Eritrean rebels in position to close Asmara's airport with fixed artillery fire. The airport lies several miles south of the besieged provincial capital and is key to the city remaining in government hands.

For nearly a year, Asmara's more than 1 million civilians and the estimated 100,000 government soldiers garrisoned there have been solely dependent on an airlift of relief supplies.

Residents of Addis Ababa, their number almost doubled to 3 million in recent years by refugees from the war zones, appeared to take the news of Mengistu's resignation calmly.

Although he was widely despised, there were no outward displays of jubilation at his departure.