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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 02:43 GMT
Bolivian leaders agree on unity
Bolivian President Evo Morales at a meeting with nine regional governors on 7 January
Mr Morales and the governors have agreed to further talks
Bolivian President Evo Morales and regional governors have agreed to draw up a pact of national unity to prevent the country from splitting apart.

Mr Morales and the governors said they want to settle their differences over a new draft constitution and revenues from natural gas exports.

Four of Bolivia's governors declared autonomy last month after Mr Morales's allies adopted the draft constitution.

Mr Morales's reform plans still need to be put to a popular vote.

He wants to give more political power to the poor indigenous majority and put through a land reform programme.

Autonomy drive

Provincial governors in the lowland eastern provinces are concerned about how gas revenues are shared with the central government.

They also want to see a revised version of the draft constitution.

The governors of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija declared autonomy for their provinces in December after a constitutional assembly which did not include opposition delegates.

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The provinces include the country's vital natural gas reserves and are home to important agribusinesses.

"The people want us to stay together," Mr Morales said after 10 hours of negotiations that ran into Tuesday morning.

"Let's work together to resolve our differences."

Ruben Costas, the governor of Santa Cruz who has been spearheading the autonomy drive, said: "We all want peace and unity. What's important is that there's a willingness to dialogue."

Mr Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, made rewriting the constitution a key part of his reform agenda to give the indigenous majority greater political power.

Among the proposals are allowing two consecutive five-year terms for presidents, greater state control of the economy and more autonomy for indigenous communities.

There were frequent demonstrations - both for and against - during the debate over constitutional reforms, with protests sometimes turning violent.

SEE ALSO
Bolivia head praises reform plan
16 Dec 07 |  Americas
Bolivians approve draft charter
09 Dec 07 |  Americas
Fuelling Bolivia's crisis?
08 Nov 07 |  Business
Battle for Bolivia's heart
08 Sep 07 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Bolivia
09 Nov 07 |  Country profiles

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