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African Leaders Call for Sanctions Against Hutu Rebels in Burundi - 2004-08-19

The African Union is open to proposals for sanctions on a Burundi Hutu rebel group suspected of involvement in last week's massacre of more than 150 Tutsis in Burundi.

At a summit held in Tanzania's capital, Dar es Salaam, heads of state and representatives from nine African countries urged the African Union and the U.N. Security Council to classify the Hutu rebel group Forces for National Liberation as a "terrorist organization," and to impose travel restrictions and other sanctions on the group.

The acting deputy head of the African Union's Conflict Management Center, El Ghassim Wane, said that the African Union supports the idea of taking punitive measures against the Forces for National Liberation.

"We were part of the meeting that took place yesterday," he said. "We had our special representative there. The African Union has already supported the call to impose restrictions on the Forces for National Liberation."

But the AU representative in Burundi, Mamadou Bah, cautions it is too early for the 53-member African body to say whether it would classify the Hutu rebel group as a terrorist organization, or what punitive measures the African Union would endorse.

He said the issue must be decided at a later date by the AU Peace and Security Council.

The summit in Dar es Salaam also focused on an agreement for a new government to end Burundi's 11-year-old civil war.

The regional leaders endorsed a power-sharing plan drafted earlier this month that would see power divided equally between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in the senate. In the national assembly, Hutus would get 60 percent of the seats and the minority Tutsis would get 40.

The summit called for an independent electoral commission to be put into place by August 29, and for the Burundi National Assembly to complete the country's draft constitution.

Elections are scheduled for October. But the date may have to be changed. Earlier this month, 10 Tutsi political parties in Burundi rejected the power-sharing plan, saying it gives too much power to Hutus.