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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 22:56 GMT 23:56 UK
Eritrea asks de-mining groups to leave
Mines in the Horn
Mines cover a huge area along border with Ethiopia
Eritrea has asked most of the international humanitarian organisations de-mining the area along its border with Ethiopia to leave by the end of the month - saying that it can do the job better itself.


This will no doubt result in a significant loss of human and material capacity in this vital area

Fred Eckhard, UN spokesman
It has accused the organisations of working too slowly and costing too much.

The UN has denied the allegations, saying that the groups had succeeded in clearing over 20 square kilometres of land in little over a year, returning it to productive use.

Correspondents say that a lot of foreign aid is being allocated to the de-mining exercise and the Eritrean Government is thought to wish to secure some of this money itself.

All five international de-mining organisations were originally asked to leave, but two were later allowed to stay on.

Appeal

On Wednesday, UN spokesman Fred Eckhard said a UN delegation had met President Isayas Afewerki.

The meeting followed a joint appeal by the UN Secretariat, the United Nations Children's Fund and the UN Development Programme, for the deadline to be extended.

"We very much regret that Eritrea insists on its decision to exclude the international NGOs from mine action," Mr Eckhard said.

"This will no doubt result in a significant loss of human and material capacity in this vital area."

He said the UN delegation had sought to assure the Eritrean president of the effectiveness of NGO operations in mine action.

He said they had asked for the deadline to be extended so that an "appropriate transition strategy" could be worked out with the government.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of mines cover huge areas along the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia.


Border decision

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13 Aug 02 | Africa
23 Aug 02 | Africa
20 Aug 02 | Africa
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