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The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"Ethiopian forces came within 100 kilometres of Eritrea's capital Asmara"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 31 May, 2000, 18:23 GMT 19:23 UK
Ethiopia says 'war is over'
Retreating Eritrean soldiers
Eritrea says its troops have withdrawn from all disputed territories
Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has announced that as far as his country is concerned, the war with Eritrea is over.

Speaking to diplomats in Addis Ababa late on Wednesday, Mr Meles said his country was ready to discuss a ceasefire.

He also said that face-to-face talks with Eritrea were now possible.

The prime minister said Ethiopia had verified that all the disputed areas had been cleared of Eritrean troops - the final verification took place on Wednesday morning at Bada in the east.

Ethiopian troops in Zalambessa
Ethiopian troops captured the strategically importantant town of Zalambessa last week
But Mr Meles said Ethiopian troops would maintain the positions they had captured on the northern front around the strategically important town of Zalambessa until Ethiopia received guarantees of security from the international community.

Diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa welcomed Mr Meles's announcement as a positive development which would help the peace talks between Eritrea and Ethiopia currently underway in Algeria.

Ethiopia pull-out confirmed

Earlier on Wednesday, Eritrea's presidential spokesman, Yemane Gebremeskel, confirmed that Ethiopian troops were withdrawing from western Eritrea.

His confirmation came as diplomats at the peace talks expressed optimism that a ceasefire agreement could be signed very soon.

Speaking in Asmara, Mr Gebremeskel said that Ethiopian troops had withdrawn from two main towns, Barentu and Tessenay.

He did not confirm that Ethiopian troops had completely left Eritrean territory, however.

The town of Tessenay is close to the border with Sudan while Barentu was taken soon after the Ethiopians launched their offensive some three weeks ago.

The Eritrean army withdrew hurriedly from the west and tens of thousands of civilians fled the area.

No contact mediation

In the Algerian capital, Algiers, the two nations' foreign ministers are negotiating indirectly through mediators over a four-point accord that could end their two-year border war.

Eritrean artillery firing
Diplomats in Algeria are confident that a ceasefire agreement will be signed soon
The two delegations have refused to take part in any face-to-face negotiations.

On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council and the United States called on Ethiopia to end its offensive, with the US saying that Eritrea had withdrawn from all the disputed areas.

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See also:

31 May 00 | Africa
Ethiopia spurns UN appeal
29 May 00 | Africa
Ethiopia hits Asmara airport
25 May 00 | Africa
Peace at last?
26 May 00 | Africa
Neighbours lament Horn war
28 May 00 | Media reports
Ethiopian president hails victories
12 May 00 | Battle in the Horn
Border a geographer's nightmare
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