JERUSALEM (May. 16)
The East-Central African republic of Burundi today became the sixth Black African nation to break off diplomatic relations with Israel. Israeli observers, caught unawares by the move, suspected that Egypt was behind it. In addition, they believed that the wide-spread poverty in Burundi and its internal social tensions may have induced this landlocked country to accept financial assistance from the Arab world.
An Agence France Presse dispatch from Burundi tonight was the first news Israel had of the break in relations. Observers believed the timing was planned to coincide with the opening of the meeting of the Organization of African Unify in Addis Ababa. Israel has had no resident ambassador in Burundi for several years and no aid workers there–partly because Burundi was not enthusiastic about seeking aid from Israel and partly because Israel was deterred by the wholesale slaughter of the Tutsis by the authorities there for more than a year.
Burundi is headed by President Col Michel Micombero, who seized power in 1966. The constitution was suspended in 1966 when the country was still a monarchy. Until independence in 1962, Burundi was the southern half of the former Belgian trust territory of Ruanda-Urundi. About 50 percent of the 3.6 million people are Christians, chiefly Roman Catholic; there are some 25,000 Moslems, and the rests are animists.