SEPTEMBER 29, 1994

Associated Press

BUJUMBURA, Burundi (AP) -- The search for a new president of this central African country faltered Thursday as opposition parties squabbled over how to divide Cabinet posts.

The uneasy calm in Burundi's lakeside capital was also broken, with gunfire and exploding grenades setting nerves on edge in the normally quiet suburbs. One person was killed.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ngendahayo said a decison on the presidency was postponed at least until Friday after opposition parties disputed whether to divide Cabinet posts among the 13 political parties before or after naming a new president.

Burundi has lost two leaders in the past year, one in a failed coup and the other in a suspicious plane crash in which Rwanda's leader also died.

Six men are vying for the post of president, which is being decided by forum of representatives from the country's 13 political parties, plus two bishops, one businessman and a trade unionist. The group has been meeting since Monday to pick a consensus candidate.

Ngendahayo said the candidate would be either acting President Sylvestre Ntibantunganya or Charles Mukasi, 39, a former journalist and Hutu member of the Tutsi-dominated Union for National Progress, or UPRONA.

Because he represents the Hutu majority but has sought to assuage the Tutsis, Ntigantunganya is seen as the candidate best able to keep Burundi from exploding into civil war like neighboring Rwanda.

The talks foundered after UPRONA demanded at least half of the opposition's share of Cabinet positions. Other parties objected to the demands.

Political and ethnic unrest in Burundi has made holding a national election impossible. As in Rwanda, Burundi's population is mostly Hutu, with a Tutsi minority.

In both countries, Belgian rule protected Tutsis as leaders. But after independence in 1962, a series of clashes with Hutus forced Burundi's Tutsis to share power, leading to the election of the country's first Hutu president in June 1993.