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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 July, 2005, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Eritrea row threatens de-miners
By Ed Harris
BBC News, Asmara

Unexploded ordnance in Eritrea
Eritrea's unexploded ordnance poses a continual risk to civilians
Aid donors in Eritrea are threatening to cut millions of dollars of funding for de-mining projects, diplomatic sources have told the BBC.

They have been in talks with de-miners to see how the government resolves the suspension of a major project.

The work has been suspended because all the cars of the de-mining project have been impounded by the government.

Eritrea is the one of the world's most heavily-mined countries, still littered with ammunition from several wars.

The government began confiscating the de-mining project's cars in March.

Some international staff on the UN de-mining programme also had to leave the country after their visas were not renewed.

The de-mining project in question involves training, equipment, and mine risk education, though de-mining activities by UN peacekeepers along Eritrea's border with Ethiopia are unaffected.

Frustration

The government says the cars have been impounded to increase the programme's efficiency.

Fuel has been rationed in Eritrea since September last year as world oil prices nudged slowly up.

Government officials told me that by pooling project vehicles, precious fuel would be saved.

Eritrea is still littered with mines from World War II, their 30-year struggle for independence and the border war with Ethiopia, but this situation is not entirely new.

In 2002 and 2003, other international mine action organisations were asked to leave the country.

Eritrea takes its sovereignty and independence very seriously indeed, but diplomats are increasingly expressing frustration at the capricious breaking of contracts.




SEE ALSO:
Eritrea expels demining group
03 Jun 03 |  Africa
De-mining in the Horn
10 Jul 00 |  Africa
Eritrea running out of food aid
21 Feb 05 |  Africa
Eritrea rejects new peace envoy
02 Jan 04 |  Africa
Country profile: Eritrea
05 May 05 |  Country profiles


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