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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"
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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Eritrea, Ethiopia mull ceasefire plans
Returning Eritrean troops found Barentu's new hotel destroyed
Both sides wonder if it will now be peace or further war
Ethiopia and Eritrea delayed resuming peace talks on Friday as the two governments took extra time to consider ceasefire proposals presented by international mediators.

The delay followed accusations by both sides that the other had launched a fresh attack, despite Ethiopia's declaration on Wednesday that it considered the two-year-old war over.

The mediator from the Organisation of African Unity, Ahmed Ouyahia of Algeria, urged both sides not to let "new confusion" block efforts to end the war.

Ethiopia's statement gave new impetus to peace talks under way since Tuesday in Algiers, although Eritrea insists that it is ready to fight on unless Ethiopia withdraws from all its territory.

Mutual accusations

"Don't ask me for blind optimism, but I have no reason to doubt that we'll succeed," Mr Ouyahian told reporters after meeting both delegations on Thursday.

Ethiopia troops
Ethiopian troops are still occuping Eritrean territory

Earlier on Thursday, Ethiopia accused Eritrean forces of attacking its positions on the eastern front and then shelling the border town of Rama, killing two civilians and wounding others.

The Eritrean Government has since accused Ethiopian aircraft of dropping bombs on a water storage facility near the Red Sea port of Assab on Thursday night.

I have no reason to doubt that we'll succeed

Algerian peace mediator
"In fact they did not hit anything," said the Eritrean presidential spokesman, Yemane Gebremeskel.

"But the attack itself is not acceptable."

Mr Ouyahia said that the indirect peace talks had been suspended until late on Friday while both countries considered the proposal he presented to them on Thursday.

Technical arrangements

US special envoy Anthony Lake, who is taking part in the talks along with the European Union envoy, Rino Serri, said: "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."

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

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.

Ethiopia says it has now recovered all its territory from Eritrea but admits that its troops are still well within Eritrea - it says they will stay there until it gets "international guarantees" against a further Eritrean attack.

Correspondents say the key 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 damage

While diplomacy takes its course in Algiers, the Eritreans have been assessing the damage to the western town of Barentu which they recovered from Ethiopia late on Tuesday.

Barentu marked the northernmost point of Ethiopia's incursion into western Eritrea during the sudden, massive offensive which reignited the war.

Eritrean Brigadier-General Tekle Lipsu said Ethiopian troops had been forced out of the town after losing a battle just north of it.

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

Most shops in the town have been looted, and many landmines left behind.

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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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