Dar es Salaam: East African leaders opened a summit in Tanzania on Sunday aimed at helping resolve the crisis in Burundi over President Pierre Nkurunziza`s divisive bid to stand for a third term.
"Heads of state and heads of delegations are now consulting, and they have started," a spokesman for the Tanzanian presidency, Salva Rweyemamu, told reporters in Dar es Salaam.
The summit has been organised by members of the East African Community -- which groups Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi -- although Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza is not attending, being represented instead by his foreign minister, Alain Aime Nyamitwe.
It was during a first crisis meeting on May 13 in Tanzania`s economic capital, attended by Nkurunziza, that a top general launched an unsuccessful bid to oust him -- and the president is also seen as being wary of again leaving the country.
His spokesman said he instead will be pushing ahead with a controversial re-election campaign that has sparked weeks of deadly civil unrest and a regional refugee crisis.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a key regional player and Burundi`s neighbour, will not be attending and is sending a minister to represent him, officials in Kigali said. South African President Jacob Zuma, however, has joined the talks.
The summit is seen as an important opportunity to resolve the crisis, with talks between Nkurunziza`s camp and the Burundian opposition deadlocked.
However the leaders are expected to stop short of telling the president to back down and are likely to instead to call for a delay in elections as well as other measures, including the reopening of independent media and civil rights guarantees for Burundi`s opposition, diplomats said.
Burundi`s government has insisted that parliamentary elections will take place on June 5 despite the crisis, while a presidential poll is scheduled for June 26..