Most Security Council members support Burundi elections delay

Protesters stands near a burning barricade during a demonstration against the Burundian President's third term candidature, in Bujumbura in May 2015 (AFP Photo/Carl de Souza)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Most of the 15 members of the UN Security Council believe that elections scheduled for next week in Burundi should be postponed, the council's Lithuanian chair said Wednesday.

Russia, however, expressed a dissenting view, arguing that the elections were an internal matter, diplomats said, reflecting ongoing divisions within the council on the Burundi crisis.

During a behind-closed-doors meeting, the council heard a report from UN envoy Said Djinnit on the turmoil sparked by President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term.

Parliamentary elections set for May have been postponed to June 5, and presidential polls are to follow on June 26.

"The predominant opinion was that elections were not possible to carry out in the present circumstances," Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite told reporters.

The ambassador said council members cited tensions in the country, growing unrest and refugee flows as signs that "elections would not be sustainable in that kind of context."

At the weekend, the council issued a joint statement condemning the murder of opposition leader Zedi Feruzi and warning that it was ready "to respond to violent acts which threaten peace and security in Burundi."

But the top UN body has been divided over how to address the crisis, with Russia arguing that the council should support efforts to help Burundians resolve the dispute themselves.

Weeks of violent demonstrations in Burundi have left at least 30 dead.

In his report to the council, Djinnit stressed the need to move quickly to prevent the political violence from stoking ethnic hatred between Hutus and Tutsis that was at the heart of the 12-year war, diplomats said.

More than 80,000 Burundians have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda during the crisis, diplomats said.

The UN envoy is working with regional governments to press for a return to dialogue that was suspended after Feruzi was gunned down at the weekend.

The crisis in Burundi worsened after a coup attempt this month that has raised alarm over revenge attacks.

Opposition leaders argue that Nkurunziza's bid for another five-year term violates the terms of the Arusha accord that ended Burundi's 13-year civil war in 2006.

But the president's supporters maintain that he is eligible to run because he was elected by parliament and not by popular vote to his first term.