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OWN CORRESPONDENT, Johannesburg | Friday 7.15pm.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela met Burundi's army chiefs on Friday and praised their commitment to peace talks under his mediation to end the tiny country's long-running civil war.
But he also said major obstacles lay ahead.
Mandela was told the military top brass are concerned about proposals to integrate ethnic Hutu rebels into the Tutsi-dominated army, but he stressed the issue is one that has to be agreed upon by all sides, not the army alone.
"There can be no unilateral integration. It has to come through a structure in which all sectors of the population will be represented," Mandela said at the end of his first visit to Burundi since taking over the peace process last December.
During his seven-hour visit, Mandela met President Pierre Buyoya as well as Defence Minister Colonel Cyrille Ndayirukiye and other top army officers. "The defence force of Burundi is far ahead of the thinking of the politicians. They support negotiations without reservations," Mandela told reporters after the talks.
"If we carry the army along with us, then we have a clear way forward for final peace," he said.
An estimated 200000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the war between the mostly Tutsi army and Hutu rebels since late 1993. -- Reuters