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Burundi Peace Talks Resume - 2003-10-06

Talks aimed at reviving the flagging Burundi peace process resumed Monday in Pretoria. The talks are being facilitated by South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

Burundi President Domitien Ndayizeye and Pierre Njurunziza, the leader of the Hutu Forces for the Defense of Democracy are continuing efforts to find agreement on power-sharing arrangements in the transitional government.

These include the composition of the cabinet, the armed forces and the police services. These issues were also discussed in August, in talks hosted by South Africa in Pretoria.

South African officials say that after a rocky start to the talks on Sunday, President Thabo Mbeki joined the discussions. They say the talks continued throughout the night and there was encouraging progress.

The parties are negotiating the composition of the cabinet, with the Forces for the Defense of Democracy demanding the creation of a second vice president's post. The Forces for the Defense of Democracy also wants 40 percent of the senior positions in the Tutsi-dominated military.

The government has balked at these demands, saying they would lead to ethnic imbalances.

A second large Hutu rebel group, the National Liberation Forces, refuses to negotiate with the government and is not part of the peace initiative.

A December 2002 ceasefire agreement, which made provision for power-sharing, has been largely ignored and in recent months fighting has escalated, claiming dozens of lives.

About 300,000 people have lost their lives since the conflict began following the assassination of the first democratically elected Hutu president in October 1993.