A summit of the Great Lakes Regional Initiative on Burundi endorsed on Friday the extension of the country's transitional period, and the holding of elections later than 1 November.
"Based on the reality on the ground, the Summit accepts that elections cannot take place before 1 November 2004," the leaders said in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting.
Under the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Accord of August 2000, elections were to have been held before 1 November, at the end of the country's three-year transitional period.
The summit also endorsed an electoral calendar submitted to it by the Independent National Commission. The commission had presented a report and recommendations to the regional leaders.
The summit noted that Burundi's National Assembly and Senate had passed a draft constitution, that provides for the extension of the transition institutions and administration.
"Therefore, the decision of the summit is that the draft constitution passed by the Congress be endorsed before 25 October 2004, as an interim constitution until the referendum, to facilitate the process of the elections in line with the calendar of the Independent Electoral Commission," the summit said.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who the chairs the region's initiative on Burundi, also chaired the summit. Presidents Domitien Ndayizeye of Burundi, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and newly installed Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed of Somalia attended. South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who is the facilitator of the Burundi peace process and the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Burundi, Carolyn McAskie, also attended.
The summit began a day after the region's leaders attended the inauguration of the new president of Somalia in the Kenyan capital.
The regional initiative was set up to oversee the peace process in Burundi, where several armed Hutu groups took up arms in 1993 against the government after the Tutsi-dominated army assassinated the first elected Hutu president, Melchoir Ndadaye.
Some 300,000 Burundians have been killed since the war started in 1993. Fighting has ceased in most parts of the country, with the exception of the western province of Bujumbura Rural, which is the stronghold of the only rebel movement that is still fighting government forces. Several other former rebel movements have signed ceasefire and power-sharing agreements with the transitional government.
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