Five Tutsi political parties dropped their opposition to Burundi's draft constitution yesterday, easing the way for the election of a new government that could help end years of ethnic violence.
The constitution will set up a new power-sharing arrangement between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis. It is due to go to a referendum by November 26.
But six Tutsi parties continue to complain that the draft placed too much power in the hands of the Hutus and boycotted Burundi's parliament when it met on October 20 to endorse it.
"We have taken this decision to give peace a chance," said Joseph Nzeyimana, the leader of the Democratic Rally for Economic and Social Development party.
He said the five parties would try to amend certain sections of the draft they consider to be unfair to the Tutsis in parliament before the referendum. He added: "We will accept the constitution to enable the president of the republic to bring it to a popular debate.
"If the public agrees with our views, we recommend this to be taken as amendments in the constitution before it is taken to a referendum."
The government hopes the new constitution will help to end fighting between the politically dominant Tutsis and Hutus that has killed 300,000 people in the last decade.
The draft also extends the life of President Domitien Ndayizeye's transitional government until elections take place in the first half of 2005.
Analysts said the move was a boost for peace, but added that any solution to the standoff would depend on the main Tutsi party, Uprona, which led the opposition to the interim constitution. It has yet to change its position.
The Tutsi parties want the presidency to be rotated every five years between a Tutsi and a Hutu, with the president and his deputy "co-managing" the country.
But the government says it cannot support a constitution which favours one political group above another.