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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 14:20 GMT
Horn border tense before deadline
There have been recent reports of troop movements on both sides
United Nations peacekeepers say Eritrea and Ethiopia are behind schedule in pulling back troops from their tense border, ahead of a UN deadline.

The UN Security Council has set a deadline of Friday night for both countries to withdraw their troops to the positions they occupied a year ago.

Tensions over the border have risen in recent months with both countries sending more troops there.

The UN confirmed on Friday that Ethiopia had withdrawn some troops.

There are currently no reports of an Eritrean withdrawal.

The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea has confirmed that Ethiopia has started to withdraw, but says the 25km security zone along the border is still tense.

An Eritrean official hinted that Asmara had no plans to redeploy its troops.

"In the first place I don't know about the deadline," Yemane Gebremeskel, director of the Eritrean presidential office, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Dec 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

"We haven't violated any of the troop deployment arrangements," Mr Yemane added.

BBC East Africa correspondent Adam Mynott says it appears unlikely that either side will have pulled back its troops to positions demanded by the UN before the deadline of midnight (2100 GMT) on Friday.

Sanctions threat

Early in the New Year, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is due to report back to the Security Council on resolution 1640, which carries the threat of sanctions against both countries if they do not redeploy troops back to where they were before 16 December 2004.

The two neighbours fought a costly border war from 1997 to 2000, which ended with a peace agreement committing both sides to abide by the ruling of an independent commission which demarcated the boundary.

However, Ethiopia has not withdrawn its troops from the disputed border town of Badme, which the commission awarded to Eritrea.

In recent months, Eritrea has put restrictions on the UN peacekeepers who operate in a buffer zone on Eritrean soil.

Both countries have deployed troops closer to the border.

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