UN cites bogus Eritrea ban as excuse to ditch
10 Jun 2004 16:34:01 GMT
ADDIS ABABA, June 10
(Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers will have problems soon patrolling a buffer zone
between Ethiopia and Eritrea because of an Eritrean ban on them using a vital
road, the United Nations said on Thursday.
barred U.N. troops from the main road linking the capital Asmara with Barentu
in the southwest in March after accusing them of unauthorised travel.
"When rain comes,
travel for the peacekeeping force on the dirt roads will be a serious
problem," Gail Saint, U.N. Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE)
spokeswoman, said in a video conference.
With rains due in the
Horn of Africa region within weeks, the U.N. says the question of access has
become more urgent and that UNMEE force commander Major-General Robert Gordon
would meet Eritrean officials to try to resolve the standoff.
The U.N. has said the ban
contravened a 2000 agreement, which ended a two-year war between Ethiopia and
Eritrea in which more than 70,000 people were killed.
Gordon says the ban has
cut the main supply route to Eritrea's western region and forced peacekeepers
to take longer journeys on poor roads.
Abrahaley Kifle, Eritrean
commissioner responsible for coordinating with the peacekeepers, said the ban
was imposed because the U.N. force had overstepped its mandate.
UNMEE patrols a 25 km (15
mile) wide buffer zone along the unmarked 1,000 km (620 mile) border between
Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Demarcation of the disputed border was
indefinitely postponed after Ethiopia rejected a ruling by an independent
commission that said the town of Badme was part of Eritrea.