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The BBC's Alex Last in Asmara
"Most shops and businesses had their padlocked doors broken"
 real 28k

The BBC's Cathy Jenkins
"Everyone is waiting for the results of the peace talks"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 June, 2000, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
Eritreans assess damage in Barentu
Returning Eritrean troops found Barentu's new hotel destroyed
Returning Eritreans found Barentu's new hotel destroyed
Eritrean soldiers have marched back into Barentu, the regional capital of western Eritrea, two weeks after it was taken by Ethiopian forces.

The town had suffered some damage during the Ethiopian occupation with most shops looted and the town's sparkling new hotel totally destroyed.


We are calling for international guarantees that Eritrea will not repeat its madness of invading neighbours

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin

Ethiopia is insisting on "international guarantees" before completely withdrawing its forces from Eritrea following sweeping advances in the last 19 days, effectively ending the two-year border war.

Both sides are now studying peace proposals presented by mediators at talks in Algiers, which resume for a fourth day on Friday.

Technical arrangements

US special envoy Anthony Lake told reporters: "The focus now is on technical arrangements that concern the withdrawal of the Ethiopians from the Eritrean territories and guarantees for the respect of the frontiers."

Eritrea says there will be no ceasefire with Ethiopia until Addis Ababa withdraws all its forces from Eritrean territory.


Looted Barentu street
Most of Barentu's shops had been looted
The OAU peace plan calls for both sides to withdraw to positions held before the conflict began in May 1998, and for a ceasefire then to take effect.

Eritrea insists that it no longer occupies any Ethiopian territory - a claim verified by the United States - but Ethiopia admits its troops are still well within Eritrea.

Correspondents say the question now is whether the international community is prepared to let Ethiopia use its recent military gains to dictate the terms of peace in Algiers.

Barentu

Eritrean Brigadier-General Tekle Lipsu said Ethiopian troops had been forced out of Barentu after losing a battle 10km (six miles) north of the town.


Mines found in Barentu
Much of Barentu has now been cleared of mines

But the Ethiopian Government said its troops had pulled out after achieving their military objectives.

Most shops in the town have been looted.

A correspondent said only the cast-iron sewing-machines remained, too heavy to lift.

Only a few civilians are returning - to check if their homes are intact and their possessions are still there.

However, the danger of landmines remains. The army said two-thirds of the town had been cleared and a pile of defused mines lay in the town square.

End to war

On Wednesday, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that, as far his country was concerned, the two-year border war was at an end.

Eritrean Government spokesman, Yemane Gebremeskel, responded: "They can't say the war is over when they still occupy sovereign Eritrean territory."



"If they are throwing away this peace plan... that means war"

Eritrean spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel

Mr Yemane told Reuters news agency: "If they think their invasion should be rewarded, it is outrageous.

"If they are throwing away this peace plan endorsed by the international community... that means war."

BBC East Africa Correspondent Cathy Jenkins says the Ethiopian declaration that the war is over while its troops remain on undisputed Eritrean soil will be seen in Asmara as an attempt by Ethiopia to humiliate its smaller neighbour.

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See also:

01 Jun 00 | Media reports
Ethiopia's victory statement
01 Jun 00 | Africa
Eritreans still defiant
31 May 00 | Africa
Ethiopia says 'war is over'
31 May 00 | Africa
Ethiopia spurns UN appeal
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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