Burundi's ruling party boycott UN-mediated crisis talks

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Bujumbura (Burundi) (AFP) - Burundi's ruling party said Tuesday it had boycotted the restart of UN-led talks hoped to broker peace between rival parties following weeks of violence and ahead of elections on Monday.

The troubled central African nation has been in crisis since late April over President Pierre Nkurunziza's controversial bid to stand for a third consecutive five-year term.

This move is branded by opponents as unconstitutional and a violation of a 2006 peace deal that ended 13 years of civil war.

Opposition politicians as well as civil society and religious leaders attended the talks, but neither Nkurunziza's CNDD-FDD party nor the presidency sent representatives.

"The CNDD-FDD party informs the national and international community that its priority is the continuation of its election campaign," party president Pascal Nyabenda said.

"The CNDD party therefore wishes to communicate that it will not participate in dialogue during this period," he added, calling it a diversion "aimed to disrupt the elections."

Parliamentary elections are planned for June 29, ahead of the presidential vote on July 15.

Interior Minister Edouard Ndiwumana, the government representative to the talks, also did not appear.

A new UN mediator, Senegalese diplomat Abdoulaye Bathily, arrived in Burundi on Sunday after his predecessor Said Djinnit quit when civil society leaders accused him of bias.

Burundi's opposition, which has said that fair polls are not possible because independent media have been shut down and many opponents have fled the country, accuses the president of trying to force a vote regardless of the crisis.

Last week, the Burundian human rights group Aprodeh said that at least 70 people have been killed, 500 wounded and more than 1,000 jailed since late April, when the opposition took to the streets to protest Nkurunziza's bid to remain in power.

More than 100,000 people have fled the violence to neighbouring countries.

Nkurunziza survived a coup attempt last month and has since faced down international pressure, including aid cuts, aimed at forcing him to reconsider his attempt to stay in power, which diplomats fear could plunge the country back into war.

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