June 30, 1997

UN forum for Burundi dialogue in Geneva postponed

GENEVA - A forum for dialogue in war-torn Burundi, which was scheduled for Monday in Geneva with Burundian politicians, representatives of civil society and religious leaders, has been postponed, the organizers said.

Officials of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization which was organizing the forum, said the meeting was postponed to a future date because of difficulties in getting all the participants to Geneva.

The forum was hoping to complement peace initiatives in the tiny landlocked central African country to end nearly four years of civil war between the almost exclusively Tutsi army, which grabbed power in a coup last year, and rebels of the Hutu majority.

More than 150,000 people have died in the fighting since soldiers killed the first democratically-elected Hutu president in 1993. The United Nations human rights office in Geneva says the army has killed thousands of civilians so far this year.

African countries slapped regional sanctions on Burundi after army major Pierre Buyoya toppled the civilian Hutu president in a coup last July. They want restoration of civilian rule and direct negotiations between the warring sides.