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UN names mediator to Burundi peace talks

The United Nations has appointed a Senegalese diplomat, Abdoulaye Bathily, to help mediate peace talks in Burundi

The United Nations on Sunday appointed a Senegalese diplomat to facilitate talks between rival factions in Burundi's political crisis after the opposition accused the previous mediator of bias.

The east African country plunged into turmoil in late April after President Pierre Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term. Opposition protesters took to the streets for weeks, saying the move violates the constitution and a peace deal that ended an ethnically charged civil war in 2005.

The U.N. said in a statement that Abdoulaye Bathily, who is already the U.N.'s Special Representative for Central Africa, would arrive in Bujumbura on Sunday to help mediate talks.

"The Secretary-General has requested ...Abdoulaye Bathily, to offer good offices in Burundi in support of regional efforts to reduce tensions and help Burundians peacefully settle their differences," the U.N said in a statement, referring to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The previous U.N. mediator, Said Djinnit, left the role after only a few weeks having faced criticism from the opposition that he was he was biased towards the government, a charge he dismissed. Djinnit remains U.N. special envoy to the Great Lakes region.

A series of elections have been delayed by weeks of unrest and violent clashes between police and protesters, alarming a region that has a history of ethnic killing.

Government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba welcomed Bathily's appointment but warned Bujumbura would not budge on the timings of forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, due to take place on June 29 and July 15.

The announcement came a day after 11 policemen were wounded when unknown gunmen hurled grenades and attacked police stations across the capital Bujumbura, police officials said on Saturday.

No suspects have been been arrested but a police investigation has been launched into the attacks on police stations in the Jabe, Cibitoke, Bwiza and Kanyosha districts, officials said.

About 70 people have died in the east African country since April 26 when clashes erupted between security forces and activists protesting Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, a rights group said on Friday. The government puts the death toll much lower.

Al Jazeera with Reuters

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