UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
ETHIOPIA/ERITREA: IRIN News Briefs, 17 May
Ethiopia denies "escalating" war by bombing Massawa
Ethiopia denied on Monday that its bombing of the Eritrean port of Massawa on Sunday morning represented an escalation of the war between the two countries, and insisted that it targeted only military facilities and not civilians as claimed by Asmara.
A spokesman at the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi told IRIN that the bombing of the Red Sea port "is not an escalation, it is a continuation" because, though not near the current war front, the objective was "not to affect economic activities but to target specific military targets - depots, the naval base and stores". "We want to incapacitate them so they will be increasingly weak at the front", he added.
The dawn raid by MIG-23 fighter planes killed a civilian and wounded three other people, AFP reported on Monday. Bombs damaged three warehouses but three others fell into the Red Sea and three foreign vessels at the port escaped unscathed, according to media reports.
Asmara condemns "obstruction" of peace efforts
A statement from the Eritrean ministry of foreign affairs on Monday condemned what it called the "provocative bombing", coming at a time of intensified peace efforts by the OAU and other concerned parties. In those talks, it claimed, Addis Ababa "continues to obstruct the implementation of the OAU Framework Agreement by stipulating new preconditions".
The Ethiopian embassy spokesman responded, in a statement to IRIN on Monday, that Addis Ababa had not changed its position of supporting the OAU framework which, he said, called for Eritrea to withdraw from Ethiopian territory before demilitarisation of the area and peace negotiations. "We are willing to solve this, because it's a costly war, but we still have our dignity", he added.
Egypt calls for ceasefire
In Cairo on Sunday, Egypt urged both Ethiopia and Eritrea to establish a ceasefire. Foreign Minister Amr Musa called for the truce after talks between Presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea. Musa said that Egypt could arrange for a meeting between Isayas and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi if both sides agreed, adding that Meles would be visiting Cairo in the next few days. Mubarak has been trying, in recent weeks, to mediate an end to the year-old border war in line with a framework agreement proposed by the OAU.
Ethiopia denies knowledge of rumoured plan to strike inside Somalia
Ethiopia has said it knows nothing about rumours, reported to be rife inside Somalia, that its army is planning to attack the southern Somali port of Merka, held by Hussein Aideed, who is accused by Addis Ababa of arming Ethiopian rebel groups. Ethiopia is also rumoured in Somalia to be planning a raid on alleged Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) training centres in the Qoryoley district of the southern Lower Shabelle region.
A spokesman at the Ethiopian embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on Monday he could not comment on the reported plans - traced by AFP to Aideed's militia - because he "knows nothing about it". He added, however, that Ethiopia respected international law and that its forces entered Somalia only in the course of "hot pursuit". "We don't occupy any village or territory; we just follow them [rebels] when we think there is a threat and then withdraw to our positions. We respect the territory of Somalia", he said.
He also denied any involvement on Ethiopia's part in the planting of landmines inside Kenya, as has recently been alleged in the Kenyan press. "We don't use such terrorist tactics in a neighbouring sovereign state", he said. "OLF can do these things."
Eritrea denies evicting Sudanese opposition
Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki on Sunday denied reports that Asmara was evicting the Sudanese opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) from Asmara in an effort to improve relations with Khartoum, but admitted that Eritrea was looking for "practical and realistic ways of resuming diplomatic ties" with Khartoum.
Sudanese media reports on Sunday said the Eritrean government, which signed a reconciliation agreement with Khartoum earlier this month, had ordered the NDA out of the Sudanese embassy which it has occupied since Eritrea broke off diplomatic ties with Khartoum in December 1994.
UN warns of "worryingly low" food aid
The UN Emergencies Unit in Ethiopia has reported that both pledges of food aid and the actual delivery of pledged food are worryingly low. UNDP has warned that a year of war and drought has left hundreds of thousands of people in a state of "critical vulnerability", yet food aid pledges have not matched the need.
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Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 1999
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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