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Thursday, February 11, 1999 Published at 13:11 GMT

World: Africa

Ethiopia warns Eritrea over civilians

Hostages of war: Captive Ethiopian soldiers

Ethiopia has warned Eritrea to evacuate its civilians from front-line border zones as the border conflict between the two countries threatens to escalate.

In another move, the US has mounted an evacuation of all its nationals in non-essential jobs in both countries, as border hostilities continued for the sixth day.

A UN Security Council demand for a voluntary international arms embargo against both sides has met an uncompromising response in both Addis Ababa and Asmara.

Salome Tadesse, spokeswoman for the Ethiopian government, said; "Ethiopia does not want this war. Ethiopia has been attacked in its national sovereignity. If you are attacked on your own land, what do you do?"

Meanwhile in Asmara, a foreign ministry official said: "We find it unacceptable that the Security Coucil cannot point our the aggressor."

Ethiopia expressed its regret for the alleged killing of five Eritrean civilians on Tuesday by aerial raids.

But in a communique, it added: "Eritrean authorities should never have positioned civilians so close to the hostile border for any length of time."

UN Correspondent Jon Leyne: There is confusion and frustration in the United Nations
Diplomats at the UN said the Security Council was likely to apply a mandatory embargo if the fighting in the disputed border area does not stop.

Meanwhile, about 100 Ethiopian soldiers captured by Eritrea over the weekend during an outbreak of heavy fighting were paraded before journalists in Asmara.

[ image: This 17-year old soldier said he was an Ethiopian conscript]
This 17-year old soldier said he was an Ethiopian conscript
The soldiers said they marched tired and hungry for 14 hours to the frontline, where they were encircled by Eritreans and told to give up their guns.

The fighting broke out in earnest on Saturday, after an eight-month unofficial ceasefire. Both sides have made claims of inflicting heavy casualties.

No compromise

BBC Correspondent to the UN Jon Leyne said ambassadors from both sides gave uncompromising speeches to the Security Council offering no prospect of an early end to the dispute.

Cathy Jenkins: PoWs a mix of experienced soldiers, volunteeers and conscripts
Eritrea's Ambassador to the UN, Haile Menkerios, said attempting to broker a peace deal was not that simple.

"Ethiopia has not expended an estimated $300m on arms since last June simply to retake a desolate patch of rocks," he said.

UN envoy Mohamed Sahnoun: The fighting is "nonsensical and unacceptable"
Ethiopia's Ambassador to the UN, Duri Mohammed accused the Eritrean regime of consistently sabotaging all peace proposals in the past nine months.

He said they were carrying out "provocative military actions in order to create an atmosphere of general crisis to divert the attention of the international community from addressing the core issue, ie Eritrean withdrawal from Ethiopian territory".

[ image:  ]
In Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Seyoum Mesfin, said his country had no option but to continue fighting Eritrean forces until they leave the disputed border area.

Addressing a news conference, Mr Mesfin said Ethiopia would also continue air raids, despite international complaints.

Mr Mesfin said the international community should press Eritrea into following Ethiopia's acceptance of a framework agreement by the Organisation of African Unity for resolving the dispute.

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