Comoros says rebels must withdraw by Monday
The Comoros government said Saturday that rebels on the island of Anjouan had to disarm by Monday and allow the city centre of Mutsamudu to return to normal after a week of clashes.
Security forces and rebels opposed to President Azali Assoumani have fought in the narrow streets of the medina quarter in Mutsamudu, with at least three people killed.
An amnesty deal signed between the main opposition and government on Friday appeared to have had little impact in disarming the rebels.
Tensions in the Comoros have mounted in recent months as President Assoumani bids to extend term limits through constitutional changes that could see him rule for 11 more years.
"Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, it is necessary that the situation becomes normal in Mutsamudu by Monday," minister Mahamoud Salim Hafi, who is leading the negotiations, told AFP.
"They had until this morning to surrender their arms, it's not done. Let them drop their weapons wherever they want, at the town hall, anywhere, we'll go get them."
He added that civilians should leave the area ahead of any military intervention.
Another senior official involved in the negotiations, who declined to be named, told AFP that he was pessimistic about whether the talks would succeed.
Assoumani won a referendum in July allowing him to scrap the rotation of the presidency between Comoros' three main islands after one term, disadvantaging opposition-leaning Anjouan, which was next in line.
The government had sent in reinforcements to quell the unrest in the old quarter of Mutsamudu after rebels erected barricades and repelled attempts by the security forces to regain control.
Soldiers surrounded the area and many civilians fled as a curfew was imposed and water and power supplies were cut.
The president, who came to power in a military coup and was elected in 2016, has indicated that he plans to stage polls next year which would allow him to reset his term limits and theoretically rule until 2029.
"(Assoumani) has done nothing in his three years in power, no jobs for young people, nothing. If they don't want to understand our challenges, then we will turn against them," one man in Mutsamudu told AFP.
The Comoros islands -- Anjouan, Grande Comore and Moheli -- are located between Mozambique and Madagascar.
They have endured years of grinding poverty and political turmoil, including a spate of coups, since independence from France in 1975.
The fourth island, Mayotte, remains French.
Assoumani's government accuses the opposition Juwa party of being behind the unrest on Anjouan.