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Another Tutsi party signs Burundi peace deal

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (Reuters) -- One of Burundi's hardline ethnic Tutsi parties agreed on Monday to sign a peace deal aimed at ending seven years of war, two weeks after it had joined other small Tutsi groups in rejecting the deal.

Mediators said they hoped three other Tutsi parties, the last remaining holdouts, would drop their resistance to the deal on Wednesday after meeting with former South African President Nelson Mandela, who has led negotiations since late last year.

  TIME LINE
graphic Key Events in Burundi History
 

The Social Democratic Party (PSD) signed the peace agreement in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam on Monday, saying it still had reservations but believed it was a first step towards reconciliation in Burundi.

"I have read through the agreement and found that in it is a global compromise which answers the questions that preoccupy all Burundi ethnic groups," PSD chairman Godefroy Hakizimana said.

The agreement was signed two weeks ago by Burundi's government, all seven of the country's ethnic Hutu parties and four of its 10 Tutsi parties.

Of the six parties that initially rejected the deal, three have now changed their minds and signed it, after pressure from Mandela and other regional leaders.

The deal was reached after more than two years of negotiations and calls for a transitional government, a new upper house of parliament, split 50-50 along ethnic lines, and equal representation for Burundi's majority Hutus in the army, which has been dominated by the Tutsis since independence.

Burundi's two main rebel groups took no part in the peace negotiations so there is no ceasefire agreement and fighting has continued in the last two weeks.

But Mark Bomani, a senior aide to Mandela in mediating the peace talks, said Burundi's main rebel groups would also meet Mandela on Wednesday to set a date for starting ceasefire negotiations.

At least 200,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in fighting between Burundi's army and the Hutu rebel groups since 1993.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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