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Burundi Rebel Group Ends Boycott Of Peace Process - 2004-01-05


The last active rebel group in Burundi says it will end its boycott of the peace process and enter negotiations with the president.

A spokesman for the Hutu-led Forces for National Liberation announced its decision Monday. The spokesman said President Domitien Ndayizeye made a personal call to the F-N-L rebel group and said he was ready to listen to their concerns.

A presidential spokesman says preliminary talks will likely begin in the next few weeks. But a specific date and location has not been announced.

The refusal of F-N-L rebels to join peace efforts had threatened to undermine the progress made late last year between the government and Burundi's main rebel group.

In November, the Hutu-led Forces for the Defense of Democracy signed a peace settlement and a month later, joined the Burundi government.

But F-N-L rebels refused to negotiate, calling the government illegitimate. The rebel group now says it will meet with the president as an individual -- not a representative of the government.

Both insurgent groups have fought the Burundi army since 1993. The army is dominated by the nation's minority ethnic group, the Tutsi.

The civil war was sparked by the assassination of Burundi's first democratically-elected Hutu president (Melchior Ndadaye). An estimated 300-thousand people have been killed in the conflict.

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