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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Burundi rebels 'won't be bullied'
Burundian refugees in Tanzania prepare to go home
Hundreds of thousands have fled the Burundi conflict over the years
Burundi's last active rebel group says it is committed to peace negotiations in Tanzania aimed at ending the country's 12-year civil conflict.

But the National Liberation Forces (FNL) said the rebels would not be threatened by mediators into signing a ceasefire deal by Saturday's deadline.

"Peace does not have a deadline," the FNL's Pasteur Habimana told the BBC.

Earlier in June, the Burundi government and FNL in a partial deal set the date as a deadline for a permanent truce.

However, FNL spokesman Mr Habimana accused the South African mediators of threatening the rebels with military action if they did not sign.

The group had been fighting its cause for more than 40 years and it was not going to be bullied by such deadlines, he said.

Since independence in 1961, Burundi has been plagued by tension between the dominant Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority.

Sticking point

The government negotiators have accused the FNL of wasting time at the talks, which the rebels deny.

"We didn't come to Dar es Salaam to play around," Mr Habimana told the BBC's French service.

Observers say a deal on a ceasefire with the FNL is seen as one of the final hurdles for stability after the long civil war.

One the main sticking points in the negotiations is the ethnic make up of the army.

In the peace process that brought President Pierre Nkurunziza to power last year, the previously Tutsi-dominated army has been split 50-50 between Tutsis and Hutus.

More than 300,000 people have died in the war sparked in 1993 by the assassination of Burundi's first Hutu head of state and democratically-elected president, Melchior Ndadaye.




SEE ALSO
Burundi: A question of justice
11 Sep 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Burundi
26 Feb 04 |  Country profiles

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