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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 December 2005, 16:01 GMT
Ethiopia 'to reduce' border force
Ethiopian troops along Eritrean border
Ethiopia recently increased troop numbers along the border
Ethiopia will move soldiers away from its border with Eritrea in compliance with a UN order aimed at averting fresh conflict, an Ethiopian official said.

Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said the move was "in the interests of peace".

Eritrea and Ethiopia have recently been massing troops along the UN-policed border they fought over five years ago.

Two UN envoys are going to the region this weekend to assess the impact of Eritrea's move on Tuesday to expel part of the UN peacekeeping contingent.

Eritrea has given no explanation for its call for peacekeepers from European and North American countries to leave the country.

However, diplomats have described it is as an expression of frustration over the international community's failure to finalise the demarcation of the Ethiopian-Eritrean border.

The UN has said the expulsion order is unacceptable and could cripple its operations in the disputed region.

The head of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, and military adviser Gen Randir Kumar Mehta will arrive in Addis Abbaba on Sunday, before leaving for Asmara on Tuesday.

Bias accusation

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Mesfin said on Saturday his country would redeploy troops away from the border as demanded by a UN resolution.

UN lorry crosses border from Ethiopia into Eritrea
June 2000: Peace agreement
Apr 2002: Border ruling
Mar 2003: Ethiopian complaint over Badme rejected
Sep 2003: Ethiopia asks for new ruling
Feb 2005: UN concern at military build-up
Oct 2005: Eritrea restricts peacekeepers' activities
Nov 2005: UN sanctions threat if no compliance with 2000 deal

"Though we have seen no encouraging signs from Eritrea... Ethiopia is convinced that its compliance with the [UN Security] Council's instruction is necessary even if doing so might have some risk for Ethiopia's security," he said.

In a letter addressed to the UN, Mr Seyoum said he expected the Security Council to "shoulder its responsibility" if Eritrea tried to take advantage of the Ethiopian move.

The Horn of Africa neighbours battled over their border in a 1998-2000 conflict that led to some 80,000 deaths.

Eritrea often accuses the UN, which monitors the disputed frontier, of favouring its larger neighbour.

It angrily rejected calls to lift its recent ban on UN helicopter flights along the border, which led to both countries beefing up troop deployments.


Asmara's demand for the expulsion of part of the peacekeeping contingent will affect 180 staff in areas like supplies, transport and finance, the UN mission's deputy head says.

Ethiopian soldier along Eritrean border
The border was the scene of a bloody trench war
There are some 3,300 peacekeepers and military observers from some 40 countries, 191 civilians and 74 UN volunteers working at the mission.

UN troops, including some 1,500 from India, patrol a 900km-long buffer zone which is just 25km wide and falls on the Eritrean side of the old border.

Ethiopia has not yet withdrawn its forces from the town of Badme, which was awarded to Eritrea.

Frustrated with the stalemate, Eritrea has imposed restrictions on the activities of the UN peacekeeping force patrolling the border buffer zone in the past few months.

New war fears in Horn of Africa
03 Nov 05 |  Africa
Eritrea limits UN night patrols
14 Oct 05 |  Africa

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