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A protester sets up a barricade during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza and his bid for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi, May 22, 2015. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed sending between 20 and 3,000 police to Burundi, where political violence has been simmering for a year, but warned that the government signalled it would only accept 20 unarmed experts.

In a report, seen by Reuters on Monday, Ban outlined three possible options for a police deployment to the small landlocked African state as requested by the 15-member U.N. Security Council in a resolution unanimously adopted earlier this month.

Tit-for-tat attacks between President Pierre Nkurunziza's security forces and his opponents have escalated since April 2015 when he announced a disputed bid for a third term as president and then won re-election in July. The United Nations says more than 400 people have been killed and over 250,000 have fled.

"The security situation in Burundi remains alarmingly precarious," Ban told the council.

More than two decades after the 1994 genocide of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the Hutu majority in neighbouring Rwanda, the United Nations is under growing pressure to show it can halt the bloodshed in Burundi. Rwanda and Burundi have a similar ethnic makeup.

The Security Council had asked Ban to provide options for a "police contribution to increase the U.N. capacity to monitor the security situation, promote the respect of human rights and advance rule of law."

Ban gave the council three options: a light footprint of 20 to 50 police personnel to assess the Burundi police, a monitoring presence of 228 police, or a protection and monitoring deployment of some 3,000 police.

He said a U.N. police deployment would "help create an environment conducive to political dialogue by averting a further deterioration of the security situation and decreasing the occurrence of human rights violations."

The Security Council would need to adopt another resolution to authorize a police deployment to Burundi. Ban said full cooperation of the Burundi government would also be needed to ensure the success of any deployment.

Ban told the council that the Burundi government said in an April 13 letter it was ready to receive "around 20 unarmed police experts to provide support to the Burundian national police and welcomed United Nations support in the form of logistics and, above all, capacity building."

In January, the Security Council made its second visit to Burundi in less than a year, where fears of an ethnic war have led to an economic crisis. Ban also visited in February.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)

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