There is no dispute in the Horn
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Meles underlines his longstanding defiance of border ruling


Berlin , Germany, 10 Nov 2004 (Deutsche Presse Agentur) - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday underlined his longstanding rejection of a demarcation line set in 2003 for his country's border with Eritrea -- but stressed he was ruling out any return to war.

"The bottom line for us is that this dispute must be resolved by peaceful means," said Zenawi at a briefing prior to talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Ethiopia fought a bloody war with Eritrea from 1998 to 2000 over demarcation of their 1 000km join border. The conflict left 70 000 people dead and cost the impoverished nations millions of dollars.

Under a peace deal signed in Algiers in December 2000, both countries set up a boundary commission to establish a new bilateral frontier, which is currently guarded by United Nations peacekeepers.

But Ethiopia was angered when the commission awarded the Ethiopian-administered town of Badme -- which sparked the war -- to Eritrea.

Zenawi said the problem with the commission was that it had drawn up provisional maps but had failed to then go out and do field work to check "the facts on the ground". This, he added, cast doubts of the legality of its decisions.

With Eritrea refusing even to discuss the border issue with Ethiopia, Zenawi admitted his country faces a stalemate at present.

"The obligation is end war, not start another one," he said, adding: "If the options are between peace and war, I'd rather have peace."

Looking to neighbouring Sudan, Zenawi said he doubts if civilians in Darfur could be protected with 3 000 troops being sent by the African Union to the war-torn region.

"The key thing is that the eyes and ears of the international community should be there," he said, adding that transparency will help lead to a much-needed political deal.

Zenawi said a federal system, such as that in Ethiopia, could help solve Sudan's conflicts both in Darfur and between the Muslim north and the mainly Christian south, where a deal appears to be close.

Ethiopia's Constitution grants major powers to regional ethnic groups, including the right to hold a referendum on secession as had been done by Eritrea, which gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

"We must recognise that ethnicity is part of the politics of Africa," said Zenawi.

But despite the fact that most African states have a diversity of ethnic groups, Zenawi said most of the continent's conflicts are due to the fact that Africans have failed to adjust to globalisation.

African people and rulers have to get their own houses in order to compete in a globalised world, he noted.

Europe and the rest of the world need to open up to trade with Africa, said Zenawi, who added he strongly backs the World Trade Organisation's Doha round of talks on liberalisation.

Turning to his meeting with Schröder, Zenawi said the most important thing Berlin could give his country is not aid or trade rights but rather to teach it how to copy the German system of technical skill formation, including systems of standards, vocational training and apprenticeships.