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Burundi Rebels to be Fully Integrated into Army by January 7 - 2004-01-02

Former rebels in Burundi who were once fighting government soldiers will be fighting side-by-side with them as of January 7.

Under terms of a peace agreement, the Burundi government and the rebel Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), signed late last year, the Hutu rebels are now integrated into the national army.

In his New Year's Day speech, President Domitien Ndayizeye announced that by January 7, 40 percent of the army's leadership will be made up of former FDD rebels.

According to the French news agency, AFP, the FDD welcomed the move as a crucial step for the beginnings of a new army.

But there is another Hutu rebel group, the National Liberation Forces (FNL), that has not been part of the peace agreement and that still attacks the government army, FDD members and civilians.

Hours before the president's address, a civilian was killed in heavy fighting on New Year's Eve in the capital, Bujumbura. Three civilians and four soldiers were also injured in the attack, which the government blamed on the FNL, according to the French news agency.

The FNL also is widely believed to have been behind last week's killing of the Vatican's representative in Burundi, Monsignor Michael Courtney, 50 kilometers south of Bujumbura.