Neighbours agree to "normalise" relations

Following a weekend of "sincere and frank" talks between the Tanzanian president and the Burundian vice-president, the two countries have agreed to "normalise" their relations after several weeks of accusations and counter-accusations over rebel attacks, a Burundian official said on Monday.

"The two countries also agreed that they would talk first to each other rather than to the media, on issues of misunderstanding," Renovat Cubwa, a spokesman at the Burundi embassy in Dar es Salaam, told IRIN.

The talks, held in Dar es Salaam, between President Benjamin Mkapa and Burundi Vice-President Domitien Ndayizeye come after the Burundian government accused Tanzania of aiding Hutu rebels in recent attacks, which were reportedly launched from Tanzania.

Cubwa said Burundi's concerns over these attacks were the "main" reason for the vice-president's visit, and that Ndayizeye wanted to clarify the position of the Tanzanian government. Nonetheless, Cubwa added, Mkapa had reiterated that the claims were "ridiculous" and that he "could not give credit" to them.

"Ndayizeye raised the question of securing the common border between the two countries, and trying to exchange information on rebel movement along there," Cubwa said.

The meetings provide both sides with a chance to clarify their positions. Cubwa also said that the delayed the ceasefire negotiations between the Burundi government and the rebels, and the regional summit on Burundi had been rescheduled for 6 and 29 of August, respectively.

However, one obstacle - that of reports of an increased presence of Tanzanian soldiers on the border with Burundi - remains unresolved. While Cubwa said that the issue had not been discussed, there were reports of "an abnormal movement" of Tanzanian troops on the border.

"There have been no troop increases. These troops have been there for three years and we have never put more troops there," Brig-Gen Kirigiti, acting commissioner of policy and planning in the Tanzanian Ministry of Defence and National Service, said on Tuesday. "What we are seeing are just normal patrols that have been going on for many years," he added.