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Last Updated: Friday, 12 September, 2003, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
UN to renew Ethiopia mandate
By Martin Plaut
BBC News in London

The United Nations Security Council is due to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping force on the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

UN peacekeeper looking across border
The UN says peacekeepers are needed elsewhere in Africa

The renewal has happened every six months since the force was deployed three years ago, at the end of the border war between the two countries.

Their role was to allow the disputed border to be demarcated, but the demarcation has stalled and the international community is beginning to lose patience with the process.

There are 4,200 troops from India, Jordan and Kenya strung out across the mountains and deserts along the Ethiopia-Eritrea border.

In theory they are keeping the peace until concrete posts are driven into the ground, physically marking the border as demarcated by an international commission of jurists. The first post should be in place next month.

'Cold peace'

But Ethiopia is desperately unhappy with the border decision, and has made it plain that it will not accept the loss of the town of Badme, which sparked off the war.

In his report to the Security Council, Secretary General Kofi Annan says that the two countries have failed to initiate a political dialogue, resulting in what he calls a "cold peace".

Mr Annan says UN resources are scarce and peacekeepers are needed elsewhere in Africa. The United States is also getting impatient.

A resolution in Congress has called for economic sanctions against whichever country blocks progress towards peace.

The Ethiopian embassy in Washington is clearly worried, and has issued a rebuttal of the resolution.

But the pressure is increasing. Soon Addis Ababa may have to decide whether it can really refuse to accept a border ruling that it had promised to accept.

Horn peace 'losing momentum'
10 Sep 03  |  Africa
Horn border row worries UN
04 Apr 03  |  Africa
Eritrea warns Ethiopia on border
04 Apr 03  |  Africa
Border a geographer's nightmare
12 May 00  |  Africa
Q&A: The Horn's bitter war
12 Apr 02  |  Africa

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