Burundi's ambassador to Kenya says the withdrawal of a former Hutu rebel group from the power-sharing government will not affect the government's functioning or upcoming elections.

The Forces for the Defense of Democracy says it is no longer participating in government meetings because of a dispute over the appointment of the interior minister.

The former Hutu rebel group put forth the name of a Tutsi to fill that position. President Domitien Ndayizeye rejected the candidate, saying a Hutu needs to fill that spot.

According to a peace agreement the two sides signed in 2003 that incorporated the former rebel group into the government and army, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy was supposed to pick the interior minister.

But President Ndayizeye said its choice violates an earlier power-sharing accord in which 60 percent of cabinet positions are reserved for Hutus and 40 percent for Tutsis.

VOA was unable to contact the Forces for the Defense of Democracy. Media reports quote an FDD official as saying the group would continue its boycott until the president agrees to fully respect and implement the peace agreement.

Burundi's ambassador to Kenya, Stanislas Nsabuwanka, says the Forces for the Defense of Democracy announcement is more symbolic than anything.

"It is not a big problem because the government can still continue to work," he said. "It does not mean that they have refused to take part in the government. They refused to go to the cabinet meeting(s) only, but they say they are still the member of government."

He says he expects that South African deputy president Jacob Zuma, who has been negotiating Burundi's peace process, will come to help sort things out.

The envoy says he does not think the Forces for the Defense of Democracy boycott will affect the upcoming elections or other parts of the peace process.

Elections are scheduled to be held in August, effectively ending the transitional government's term, which was created as part of a peace deal signed in Tanzania five years ago.

Burundi is struggling to recover from an 11-year civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. The war claimed 300,000 lives.