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US: Third Term for Burundi President is Unconstitutional

A demonstrator uses a slingshot during clashes with security forces in the Cibitoke district of the capital Bujumbura, Burundi Friday, May 29, 2015.

The U.S. Embassy in Burundi says it continues to urge President Pierre Nkurunziza to abandon his attempt to run for a third term in office, a decision that has sparked violent protests since the president's announcement in April.

The U.S. embassy in Bujumbura says Nkurunziza's plans violate the agreement that ended years of violence in Burundi, and could endanger the country's "hard-earned stability after a tragic civil war."

The embassy statement said the conditions for free, fair, transparent and credible elections do not exist in Burundi at present, due to the closure of political space, the shutting down of independent media, the government's violent response to political protests, and continuing reports of violence and intimidation by an armed youth militia.

East African leaders, who met Sunday to discuss the crisis, have called on President Nkurunziza to postpone the June 26 presidential election for at least six weeks. The president said through a spokesman Monday that he will consider the request. But deputy presidential spokesman Gervais Abayeho told VOA that any delay should not push the vote back too far.

The president says he has the right to run for a third term in office because he was appointed to his first term, rather than elected. But his critics say a third term would be unconstitutional.

Meanwhile the United Nations says it is giving $15 million in aid to Rwanda and Tanzania to help them cope with the influx of refugees from Burundi. The U.N. says more than 70,000 refugees, an estimated 60 percent of them children, have fled the Burundian capital Bujumbura since violent protests began in April.

The U.N. says children from Burundi have been arriving in Rwanda and Tanzania sick and malnourished. It says a cholera outbreak has affected some 4,000 people in port cities on Lake Tanganyika, and the illness has killed 30 refugees in a refugee camp.