Annan recommends extending UN mission in Burundi until next May

The most urgent priority is to ensure that the conflict with the National Liberation Forces (FNL) is brought to an end, he says in his fifth report to the UN Security Council.”I encourage the Government, as well as the international and regional partners concerned, to adopt a common approach to resolving this conflict,” Mr. Annan says. “In this regard, I welcome the steps taken by the Government to engage in talks with FNL, and urge it to continue with these efforts, which have the support of the international community. I also strongly urge FNL leaders to seize this opportunity to join the peace process.”While the need for an ONUB military presence should continue to be assessed closely in close consultation with the Government, it is proposed that the mission’s military component could begin its drawdown in December with the withdrawal of one national contingent, he says.Together with other withdrawals and redeployments this would result in a reduction of approximately 2,000 personnel, or 40 per cent of ONUB’s current authorized military strength, between April and June, he says. With the completion of this withdrawal, the remainder of the ONUB force would remain temporarily deployed in the three border provinces where FNL remains active – Bujumbura Rural, including the capital, Bubanza and Cibitoké, he states.The efforts of the Tanzanian Government to bring FNL to the negotiating table are commendable, but should no tangible progress be achieved in the coming weeks, “the Security Council and the region may wish to give due consideration to the use of targeted measures against those among the FNL leaders who continue to obstruct a peaceful solution,” Mr. Annan says.Meanwhile, Burundi is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and disputes over land ownership and other social inequities have been at the core of the country’s conflict. With rising demographic pressures, alternative income-generating opportunities for rural communities will be essential to lessen the pressure on land and the dependency on agriculture, he says.

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