Burundi Looks To Limit Embargo

News and Press Release
Originally published
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Burundi sought Wednesday to head off any expansion of an African trade embargo, warning that a proposed global arms ban would be a ''windfall'' for anti-government rebels.

Burundian Ambassador Nsanze Terence also told the Security Council that the economic sanctions imposed by African nations were strangling his country's economy and leaving hospitals short of medicine.

The embargo was imposed Aug. 9 after a Tutsi major, Pierre Buyoya, ousted the government and seized power.

The embargo is ''a steamroller which is in the process of destroying the people of Burundi,'' Terence told the council.

Chile has been leading a move in the council to impose an arms embargo on Burundi.

Addressing a special council meeting, Burundian Ambassador Nsanze Terence defended his country's military coup as a necessary move to halt ethnic slaughter.

Terence, who requested the meeting, said an arms embargo would render the military unable to defend civilians from attacks by Hutu guerrillas, many of whom smuggle weapons through Zaire.

''This measure for them would be a windfall,'' he said, ''because it would make it impossible for the government to provide itself and equip itself.''

But Chilean Ambassador Juan Somavia argued that ''every weapon that reaches Burundi is a weapon which is aimed mainly at killing an unarmed civilian.''

Many U.N. members at the meeting applauded the African embargo, but there was little support within the council to impose a weapons ban immediately.

''We hope these sanctions will convince the coup leaders that they have no alternative but to halt the fighting and initiate a political dialogue,'' U.S. representative Karl Inderfurth said. ''If this does not work, the Security Council is willing to consider further action.''

Hutu guerrillas have been battling Burundi's Tutsi-dominated military. Some 150,000 people have been killed in three years of ethnic conflict in Burundi.

Meanwhile, a proposed U.S. deal that would allow official recognition for Burundi's military leader was discussed Wednesday at informal peace talks in Rome, according to a spokesman for a Roman Catholic community involved in the discussion.

U.S. diplomat Howard Wolpe and former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere met individually with representatives of the community of St. Egidio to discuss ways to end ethnic warfare in the central African country.

The three parties were to meet together Wednesday afternoon, said St. Egidio spokesman Mario Marazziti.

=A9 Copyright 1996 The Associated Press