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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 April, 2004, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Eritrea 'shifts' on Horn peace
UN envoy to the Horn, Lloyd Axworthy
Axworthy might soon have his first talks in Eritrea
Eritrea has for the first time said that it might be ready to meet the UN envoy to the Horn of Africa.

A government spokesman told the BBC that Lloyd Axworthy could go to Eritrea as long as he did not try to alter a decision on its border with Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has rejected a 2002 world court ruling giving Eritrea the town of Badme, where a border war started.

Eritrea's new position follows the visit of a high-level European Union delegation to Asmara earlier this week.

The delegation led by Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said it wanted to give a strong message for the two sides to move the process forward.

'Closed file'

In February, Eritrea refused to see Mr Axworthy, saying that the only way of making progress was for Ethiopia to accept the world court ruling.

Mr Axworthy did have talks with Ethiopia.

Presidential spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel denied that Eritrea was doing a U-turn, saying it had never received details of what Mr Axworthy's role was, implying that he was going to review the whole peace agreement.

"The Special Envoy should not tamper with a closed file, which is the decision of the Boundary Commission on where the border is and how it should be implemented," he said.

"If it was clarified that his role is expediting and lubricating then we might meet with him."

An 18-month border war ended in June 2000 after tens of thousands of soldiers had been killed.

Following Ethiopia's rejection of the border ruling, there were fears that the war could reignite last year.

A UN peacekeeping force is patrolling the security zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea.





SEE ALSO:
Eritrea denies new Horn talks
05 Mar 04  |  Africa
Horn tensions trigger UN warning
04 Feb 04  |  Africa
Eritrea rejects new peace envoy
02 Jan 04  |  Africa


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