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Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 17:43 GMT
Ethiopia says pull-out complete
Ethiopian soldiers
Thousands of soldiers were seen leaving
Ethiopia says it has completed its troop withdrawal from Eritrea, under a United Nations-sponsored agreement to end the two neighbours' ruinous border war.

Ethiopia has notified the United Nations Mission in the Horn of Africa that its remaining soldiers in the southern Eritrean Senafe region have now been pulled out.

United Nations observers are expected to verify the withdrawal on Monday.

A group of more than 1,000 Ethiopian soldiers, along with tanks and artillery, were widely observed on the move earlier this week.

This follows an earlier pull-back by Eritrean soldiers.

Troop redeployment on both sides is a key issue in the peace agreement.

Buffer zone

It will allow UN peacekeepers to take charge of a 25km (16 miles) buffer zone separating the two countries, monitor the ceasefire and re-establish boundaries.

Ethiopian soldiers with flag
The withdrawal will be followed by the deployment of peacekeepers
Under the agreement, Ethiopia has to withdraw to positions held by its troops before the outbreak of war in May 1998, while Eritrea must withdraw its forces 25km from Ethiopian lines.

This means that the buffer zone will be almost entire on Eritrean territory.

A border dispute, following Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia in 1993, sparked the two-year conflict.

Around 100,000 Ethiopian and Eritreans died as a result.

The next task for peacekeepers will be to re-establish Eritrean civilian administration in parts of the buffer zone and then assist a team of experts to officially mark the border.

The UN has issued an appeal for Eritrea which, it says, will require massive food aid in the coming months as a result of war and drought.

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See also:

18 Feb 01 | Africa
Eritrea's pull-back begins
13 Feb 01 | Africa
Relief as Ethiopian troops leave
12 Feb 01 | Africa
Ethiopian pull-out under way
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