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UN mission arrives to halt violence in Burundi

Bujumbura - A UN Security Council delegation arrived in Burundi on Thursday in an attempt to halt the spiral of political violence threatening to plunge the east African country into a new civil war, one day after grenade blasts had rocked the capital.

The delegation comprised 15 Security Council representatives as well as other UN delegates and journalists, according to UN sources.

It was not known if the grenade blasts on Tuesday and Wednesday had led to injuries or casualties.

More than 400 Burundians have been killed since April in anti-government protests, attacks by armed groups and police repression, according to the UN.

"The UN Security Council delegation will realize that the Burundian government wants peace," government spokesperson Philippe Nzobonariba said, blaming the violence on the opposition.

According to the opposition, only the resignation of President Pierre Nkurunziza can halt the violence.

"Those who want to help Burundians must ... tell Nkurunziza to respect the constitution," opposition representative Leonard Nyangoma told dpa.

The UN Security Council representatives were due to meet the president on Friday.

Nkurunziza's announcement in April that he would seek a third term in office, despite a constitutional two-term limit, unleashed a wave of violence. The president won an election boycotted by the opposition in July.

Witnesses have said that the Hutu-dominated police force increasingly targets Tutsis, sparking fears of a repetition of the ethnically based civil war that left 300 000 people dead between 1993 and 2005.

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