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UN voices concern ahead of envoy's visit to Burundi
[NEW YORK] The UN Security Council on Friday expressed deep concern over Burundi's refusal to allow the deployment of a UN police force, a day after it decided to send an envoy to Bujumbura for crisis talks.
Council members said in a unanimous statement that they "regret" the Bujumbura government's decision to break off ties with the UN rights office and expressed hope that the dispute can be resolved.
UN envoy Jamal Benomar has the "full support" of the council as he heads to Bujumbura for the delicate mission to try to persuade the government to change course, said the statement.
Relations between Burundi and the United Nations nosedived after a report by UN rights experts blamed state police and security forces for the violence that has torn apart the country since April 2015.
The government responded by breaking off ties with the UN rights office while the parliament has voted to pull out of the International Criminal Court in a bid to avoid investigation for war crimes.
A UN resolution adopted in July on deploying the UN police force remains deadlocked, with Burundi insisting it will accept only a few dozen UN police and not up to 228 as outlined in the measure.
The police force would be deployed in the capital Bujumbura and throughout Burundi to monitor security and the human rights situation.
"The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern over the political situation and the lack of progress in implementing resolution 2303" on the police deployment, said the statement.
Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April last year to run for a third term, which he went on to win.
More than 500 people have died in the violence and at least 300,000 have fled the country.
Mr Benomar told reporters on Thursday following a closed-door council meeting that the United Nations wanted a "renewed engagement" with the government, but he declined to say whether the threat of sanctions was on the table.
The resolution adopted by the council in July provides for "targeted measures against all actors, inside and outside Burundi, who threaten peace and security."
The UN rights report warned of a "risk of genocide" in Burundi, which has the same ethnic mix of Hutu and Tutsi as Rwanda, where mass atrocities took place in 1994.