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BURUNDI: UN steps up military presence ahead of Friday poll

NAIROBI, 31 May 2005 (IRIN) - The UN Mission in Burundi, known as ONUB, has stepped up its military presence across the country ahead of communal elections set for Friday, an official told IRIN on Tuesday.

"Anyone here can see there is a lot more UN armoured vehicles and UN troops on the street than there was before," Penangnini Toure, the ONUB spokesman, said in the capital, Bujumbura.

He added, "The same is true is towns throughout the country."

The mission, he said, was taking the extra security measures because of concerns that armed groups could seek to disrupt the elections, the first in a series that will culminate in the presidential poll on 19 August.

"We have had a few shooting incidents recently in and around capital," Toure said. "The FNL [Forces nationales de liberation] rebels and the national army are accusing each other of attacks. We are not interested in who is right, we just want the fighting to stop."

Friday's poll will be the first of four elections set to bring Burundi's 43-month transitional phase to a conclusion. There have been numerous delays in the electoral timetable as groups that were once fighting each other now jostle for political power.

Toure said that the UN Special Representative to Burundi and head of ONUB, Carolyn McAskie, would make a statement on Thursday calling on the country's leaders to play their role in creating a conducive environment for the elections.

He said on Friday, 350 ONUB election monitors would go to voting centres across the country.

"We don't expect problems," Toure said, "but there are a lot of arms floating around this country and you just never know."

Theme (s): Conflict,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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