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Burundi peace talks close with little progress

graphic

ARUSHA, Tanzania (Reuters) -- The latest round of peace talks aimed at ending Burundi's civil war closed on Thursday after delegates made little progress toward implementing a peace accord signed in August.

The deal called for the formation of a transitional government in the tiny central African nation where a seven-year conflict between the Tutsi-led army and Hutu rebels has killed an estimated 200,000 people -- most of them civilians.

But after six days of talks in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, politicians representing Burundi's government and opposition parties failed to agree who should lead the transitional government called for by the agreement.

Delegates were divided along ethnic lines, with political parties representing Burundi's Hutu majority calling for the interim president to be a Hutu.

  TIME LINE
graphic Key Events in Burundi History
 

Tutsi parties want to see a Tutsi as leader, fearing an uprising against them if they lose control of power.

Burundi's conflict mirrors the ethnic battle in neighboring Rwanda, where more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists in a 1994 genocide.

The civil war started in 1993 after Tutsi soldiers assassinated Burundi's first democratically elected president, a Hutu. Incumbent President Pierre Buyoya is a Tutsi who took power in a military coup in 1996.

"We can't accept anybody short of a Hutu president," said Gaitan Nikobambimiye, leader of the pro-Hutu parties.

"This is a difficult (subject) and cannot be achieved within a very short period."

The failure to appoint a transitional leader will disappoint the mediator in the peace process, former South African President Nelson Mandela, who on Monday appealed to delegates to give the matter their urgent attention.

Mandela has organized a conference of major donors to be held in Paris on December 11 and 12, aimed at raising funds to revitalize Burundi's ailing economy.

But the Nobel Peace Prize winner warned delegates in Arusha that the international community would be reluctant to help if they failed to take determined steps toward peace.

Burundi's main rebel groups have never attended the peace talks and have continued to stage guerrilla attacks in the Burundian countryside.

Mandela has held a series of parallel meetings with rebels aimed at securing a cease-fire.

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



RELATED STORIES:
Mandela promises aid in search of Burundi peace
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Mandela pressing Buyoya to accept southern Africa peacekeepers
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Mandela, Buyoya hold Burundi peace talks
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Burundi parties open talks, criticized by mediators
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RELATED SITES:
Burundi Home Page
Amnesty International: Burundi
Burundi - Consular Information Sheet


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