United Nations: France has moved to toughen the international response to the worsening violence in Burundi, where fears of Rwanda-style mass killings are rife.
At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, France said it would present a draft resolution outlining steps to end the crisis including sanctions against those who are fomenting violence, diplomats said.
"We are extremely worried by what we are seeing in Burundi at this moment: this increase of political violence and the extremely alarming ethnically-based hate speech," French Deputy Ambassador Alexis Lamek told reporters yesterday.
Lamek said the council must "act" in the face of the worsening crisis that followed protests over President Pierre Nkurunziza's third term in office.
Yesterday, two people were killed and a policeman wounded in gun battles in Burundi's capital, just days after a UN employee was among nine people killed at a bar by armed men in police uniform.
Burundi has suffered a dramatic rise in killings, torture, arrests and detentions since Nkurunziza launched the controversial bid to prolong his term in office in April.
Police have launched a huge security operation in the capital's opposition districts searching for weapons after an ultimatum to give up arms expired Saturday.
Officers have so far displayed around a dozen rifles and grenades they said had been seized in the ongoing raids.
The operation - a widely feared crackdown on "enemies of the nation" - has raised international alarm over fears it could unleash further bloodletting in a country still recovering from a 13-year civil war that ended in 2006.
Many residents living in parts of Bujumbura considered opposition strongholds have fled the capital, nearly emptying districts that have seen some of the worst violence in recent months.
Diplomats at the United Nations said negotiations were under way on a text that would provide for sanctions against those who foment violence and block moves toward a dialogue between the government and the opposition.
It remained unclear though whether Russia and some African countries at the council would support sanctions in Burundi, a conflict that they have described as an internal matter.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft called on the council to unite around tough measures to prevent a further slide toward a possible genocide.
"We remember what happened in that region, in neighbouring Rwanda 21 years ago," Rycroft told reporters.