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Yemane Ghebremeskel Eritrean government spokesman
"Eritrea is a victim of aggression"
 real 28k

The BBC's Mark Devenport
"The sanctions will be in place for only 12 months"
 real 28k

Selome Taddesse Ethiopian government spokesman
"The UN is violating its own charter"
 real 28k

Thursday, 18 May, 2000, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
Horn arms embargo imposed

The United Nations has imposed a 12-month arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea in an effort to prevent any further intensification of their two-year-old border war.

The Security Council voted unanimously for the move after the two countries ignored a UN deadline for an end to hostilities.

UN bans sale of :
Weapons
Ammunition
Military vehicles
Spare parts

Within hours of the vote, Ethiopia announced that it had won an important victory, capturing a key town deep inside Eritrean territory.

Eritrea has meanwhile complained that the UN resolution is unfair.

Official spokesman Yemani Gebremeskel told the BBC that the UN should have condemned Ethiopia for attacking Eritrea, and not criticised Eritrea, which had a legitimate right to self-defence.

Ethiopian soldiers
The Ethiopian army has made significant gains

Russia and France have insisted that the Security Council should review the arms embargo in a year's time.

It would then lapse if there had been a "peaceful definitive settlement of the conflict", but could be extended if no progress had been made.

In the meantime, there will be a ban on the sale of weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and spare parts to both countries.

The embargo is likely to have little practical impact in the short term, but diplomats argue that, by adopting the measure, the Security Council is sending out a clear political signal.

Barentu falls

Ethiopia announced on Thursday that its troops had scored a major victory by capturing the key strategic town of Barentu, in south-west Eritrea, and taking full control of the western front.

Eritrean soldiers
Ertirean soldiers have been driven back

It said they captured Barentu overnight after three days of intensive fighting.

"They reorganised and tried to resist but, after heavy and fierce fighting comprised of air attacks, ground infantry and heavy artillery, the Eritreans were forced to retreat," said Ethiopian government spokesman Haile Kiros.

Mr Kiros said the goal was not to hold the provincial capital of 25,000 people, but to defeat the opposing army, secure the territory around the contested border and withdraw.

"Even if we want to hold it, we cannot afford to," he said, as troops returning from the front line cheered and waved green, yellow and red Ethiopian flags.

Eritrea had earlier acknowledged that its troops had withdrawn from Barentu, in the face of a heavy assault by the Ethiopian army.

An Eritrean Government statement, broadcast on national media, said Barentu was being evacuated to avoid a loss of civilian life and the complete destruction of the town.

Refugees in camp
Refugees have been in camps since the war began

The statement said that Eritrea had been faced with an invasion by Ethiopian troops for the last six days, and it had decided to evacuate Barentu in order to better defend itself.

But the Eritrean Government insists that the situation remains fluid, arguing that the Ethiopians have been occupying Eritrean territory for two years and so a few more square kilometres do not make any difference.

On Tuesday, it said it had turned the western front into a "massacre site" for Ethiopian soldiers.

Refugees at risk

The World Food Programme (WFP) says bombing near the refugee camps in the Gash Barka region scattered the inhabitants and made it too dangerous for relief workers to continue food distribution.

The UN's representative in Asmara, Simon Nhongo, said the Eritrean Government had asked the UN to help out in providing emergency supplies, such as tents, blankets, relief food and water storage facilities.

He said the UN was contacting private relief groups to ask what help they could offer.

The UN has temporarily pulled out most of its staff from the area, where it has been feeding an estimated 200,000 refugees over the past year.

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See also:

17 May 00 | Media reports
War of words in the Horn
17 May 00 | Africa
Eritrea appeals for UN help
16 May 00 | Africa
More Eritreans rushed to front
16 May 00 | Africa
Battles rage in Eritrea
16 May 00 | Africa
US calls for Horn sanctions
16 May 00 | Africa
Arms flood to Horn conflict
13 May 00 | Africa
Call to end Horn war
11 May 00 | Africa
EU presses for Horn peace deal
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