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Burundi President Meets With Rebel Leader

Burundi's President met for a second day with the leader of the country's last active rebel group, the National Liberation Forces. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi, Monday's meeting was the first between the two men in more than a year.

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, and Agathon Rwasa, the head of the rebel National Liberation Forces, known by their French acronym FNL, met in the capital Bujumbura.

Monday, the two men held their first direct meeting since June 2007, along with South Africa's Minister for Safety and Security Charles Nqakula, who is mediating peace negotiations between the two sides.

FNL spokesman Pasteur Habimana spoke to VOA from Bujumbura.

He said President Nkurunziza and Rwasa agreed to hold twice-weekly meetings, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and to establish a commission to address disputes that arise during the negotiations.

He said Charles Nqakula, who left for South Africa after Monday's meeting, would return to Burundi next week to evaluate whether the meetings have been productive.

The meetings follow a statement issued last week by the African Union's Peace and Security Council calling on the two sides to stop engaging in "procrastination and delaying tactics" in implementing a 2006 ceasefire agreement.

The FNL is the only remaining rebel group that has failed to reach an agreement with the government of President Nkurunziza, who was himself the leader of a rebel faction.

Rwasa, the rebel leader, has pledged support for demobilizing his troops and signing an agreement. But the two sides have failed to agree on a system for sharing power in government and military institutions, or on how to integrate
FNL rebels into the army.

Burundi's civil war, which began in 1993, pitted ethnic Hutu rebel groups against the country's Tutsi-dominated military. The conflict has killed an estimated 300,000 people, in a country with a population of 8 million.