France at odds with US over UN police presence in Burundi

France at odds with US over UN police presence in Burundi

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - France on Friday faced opposition from the United States over its proposed resolution aimed at laying the groundwork for a UN police presence to help quell violence in Burundi, diplomats said.

The draft resolution requests that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hold talks with the Burundian government and the African Union on the proposed international presence and present options to the Security Council within 15 days.

The text, obtained by AFP, provides for the "deployment of a United Nations police contribution to increase the United Nations capacity to monitor the security situation, promote the respect of human rights and advance rule of law" in Burundi.

It did not specify the size of the proposed police force.

France requested a vote on the measure later Friday, but the United States made clear it was not ready to support the text, diplomats said.

The United States raised concerns with provisions that call on the United Nations to help Burundi on "disarmament, security and rule of law".

The language was seen as imprecise and a potential source of problems after the Burundian government launched a disarmament campaign that brutally targeted opposition activists.

"I don't think we want the UN to be working with the government of Burundi on disarmament," said a Security Council diplomat.

The United States also complained that the draft text was rushed through and argued for more time to consider the measure, according to diplomats who asked not to be named.

The draft resolution also calls for beefing up the UN team of envoy Jamal Benomar, but the mandate of the enhanced political mission was not spelled out.

- Torture on the rise -

Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April to run for a third term, which he went on to win.

Violence has left more than 400 dead, driven more than 240,000 people across the border and fueled fears of mass atrocities in the country.

At a council meeting last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said reports of torture were on the rise since the beginning of the year and that Burundians "live in terror."

A recent visit by UN rights officials to detention centers in the capital Bujumbura found that almost half of detainees had been tortured or ill-treated, some seriously, he said.

After days of negotiations on the text, France presented a final version late Thursday and requested the vote.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev told reporters that he was ready to support the text, if it contained clear provisions on consulting the Burundian government.

"There is no question of an international police presence substituting Burundian security forces. It's their job. But any kind of assistance they can provide will be more than welcome," Iliichev said.

The Russian envoy said he envisaged a small deployment of fewer than 100 police officers who could help Burundi ensure its security forces respect human rights standards.

The draft resolution urges the government of Burundi and all parties to "reject any kind of violence and condemn any public statement inciting violence or hatred."

During a visit by Security Council ambassadors to Burundi in January, Nkurunziza dismissed concerns that his country could slide into ethnic killings, similar to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Burundi has the same Hutu-Tutsi mix as Rwanda.