Burundi government says won't bow to foreign pressure

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Bujumbura (Burundi) (AFP) - Burundi's government on Tuesday condemned mounting diplomatic pressure over President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive term, signalling it would not bow to international criticism.

The government has "red lines", spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba said on state radio, indicating that Nkurunziza was still unwilling to compromise even though the political crisis has already sparked weeks of civil unrest, an attempted coup, a refugee crisis and international isolation.

"The government of Burundi is profoundly preoccupied by the current diplomatic activity which could undermine and denigrate our republican institutions and constitution," he said.

"Certain questions that touch on our sovereignty, constitution and the primacy of our laws cannot be debated. The Burundian government will not negotiate and will not discuss matters that undermine our institutions."

Burundi's crisis erupted after the ruling CNDD-FDD party nominated Nkurunziza to stand again in the June 26 presidential election, prompting street protests by activists and opposition groups that have so far left at left at least 30 people dead.

The crisis deepened earlier this month when a top general staged a failed coup attempt, which was met with only measured international condemnation -- with regional and international powers broadly critical of the president's bid to stay in office.

Opposition and rights groups say that Nkurunziza's bid for a third five-year term violates the constitution as well as the terms of a peace deal that ended a 13-year civil war in 2006.

That conflict, marked by brutal ethnic violence between the country's ethnic Hutu and Tutsi communities, left hundreds of thousands of people dead, and there are fears the latest unrest could plunge the small, landlocked and impoverished nation back into widespread violence.

- Regional meeting planned -

Renewed protests took place in the capital on Tuesday, with demonstrators also gathering for the first time in the mainly Muslim and commercial district of Buyenzi, near the city centre.

Large numbers of police were also out in force in Bujumbura, AFP correspondents said.

The East African Community (EAC) -- a regional grouping of Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and also Burundi -- meanwhile announced it planned a second meeting on the crisis on Sunday in Tanzania's main city of Dar es Salaam.

Nkurunziza was at an EAC summit in Dar es Salaam on May 13 when the coup attempt was launched, although an EAC statement said all the bloc's leaders would attend the next meeting.

Nkurunziza, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian, argues that his first term did not count as he was elected by parliament, not directly by the people. He has so far maintained his bid for another term, for which he has strong support in rural areas and among sections of the Hutu majority.

Asked to decide on the issue of a third term, Burundi's constitutional court found in the president's favour, but not before one of the judges fled the country claiming its members were subject to death threats.

Parliamentary polls, initially set to take place on Tuesday, have been postponed to June 5.

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