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SLUG: 2-311530 Burundi / Politics (L O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=1/5/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=BURUNDI/ POLITICS (L O)

NUMBER=2-311530

BYLINE=CATHY MAJTENYI

DATELINE=NAIROBI

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: A Burundi rebel group that had steadfastly refused to join the country's peace process says it is ready to meet with Burundi's president. Cathy Majtenyi reports from V-O-A's East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.

TEXT: The National Liberation Forces (F-N-L) said Monday it plans to meet with President Domitien Ndayizeye sometime this month.

Until now, the Hutu rebel group has vowed to talk peace only with members of the Tutsi ethnic group, which dominates Burundi's national army. President Ndayizeye is a Hutu.

All throughout last year, the F-N-L had refused to join peace talks between the government and another Hutu rebel group, a faction of the Forces for the Defense of Democracy, or F-D-D.

The government and F-D-D signed a peace deal in November that aims to integrate the former rebels into the government and national army.

But the Liberation Forces has continued its insurgency. And last week, the government accused the F-N-L of killing the Vatican's representative in Burundi, Archbishop Michael Courtney, which the group denied.

F-N-L spokesman Pasteur Habimana told reporters that President Ndayizeye had personally invited the group to discuss its problems with him, and the F-N-L accepted the invitation.

The talks are to take place between January 15th and 20th, Mr. Habimana said.

Analysts say it would be impossible to bring peace to Burundi unless the F-N-L was included in the process.

An estimated 300,000 people have died in Burundi's decade-long civil war. (Signed)

NEB/CM/MAR/KL/FC



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