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Tuesday, 2 October, 2001, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Italy expels Eritrea's ambassador
President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea
The EU criticised Mr Afewerki for political repression
Italy has ordered Eritrean ambassador Tseggai Mogos to leave the country within 72 hours.

The move is a direct response to the Eritrean Government's expulsion of Italy's envoy to Asmara, Antonio Bandini who left for Rome on Tuesday.

The Eritrean Government is believed to have been angered by a letter of reproach from the EU delievered by Italy's ambassador on Friday.

In the letter the EU criticised Eritrea for human rights violations, following the arrest of 11 dissidents, the closure of the private press and the detention of at least eight journalists.

Aid risk

Our correspondent in Asmara, Alex Last says the economic implications of Eritrea's actions could be considerable.

Many Eritreans are dependent on aid

Italy is the largest single donor to Eritrea, a country which is asking for hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from its war with Ethiopia.

Italy and Eritrea were scheduled to discuss the next three years of Italian development aid later this month.

It is unlikely to take place now. 

A week before the clampdown began, Eritrea had been asking for $197m for its crucial demobilisation and re-integration programme alone.

According to diplomatic sources, pledges at a donor conference three weeks ago were about $60m short of the target.

Previously, there were even expectations that Italy might contribute more to make up some of the shortfall.

Any concerted hard line from EU countries, if could lead to a freezing of almost all development projects in Eritrea.

This would leave Eritrea's demobilisation programme, and dozens of development projects, in considerable trouble.

Though it is thought unlikely that humanitarian assistance will end.

The BBC's Alex Last reports from Asmara
explains the background to the diplomatic row
See also:

02 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrea plays down diplomatic row
01 Oct 01 | Africa
Eritrea expels Italian ambassador
21 Sep 01 | Africa
Concern over Eritrea detainees
19 Sep 01 | Africa
More reformists held in Eritrea
18 Sep 01 | Africa
Eritrea silences critics
31 May 01 | Africa
Dissent surfaces in Eritrea
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