19 May 2007 04:17

SOMALIA WATCH

 
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  • Title: [SW News](AFP) Ethiopia escalates war against Eritrea
  • From: []
  • Date:  [Friday, May 19 10:28 AM SGT]

Friday, May 19 10:28 AM SGT
Ethiopian "invasion" escalates war against Eritrea
ADDIS ABABA, May 19 (AFP) -
Ethiopia has escalated the fighting against Eritrea from a border war into a
military assault on strategic targets deep into the country, as US President
Bill Clinton appealed for calm.
State television station ETV here reported late Thursday that Ethiopian
warplanes had bombed Eritrean military positions close to the Eritrean Red
Sea port town of Massawa.
The strategic Massawa port lies northeast of the Eritrean capital Asmara and
more than 100 kilometres (70 miles) north of the disputed border area.
"The valiant air force bombed selected strategic positions in the vicinity
of Massawa," ETV said.
Ethiopian forces "have been consolidating their positions by destroying the
remaining Eritrean troops that have been fleeing from Barentu towards
Akordat," it added.
ETV said the Ethiopian government had no interest in annexing Eritrean
territory, despite comments to the contrary by Eritrean officials who spoke
of an "invasion".
It also said Addis Ababa "regrets the grave humanitarian consequences" of
the conflict, which centres on which country owns what territory along an
undemarcated border.
The report of the airstrikes -- which were not immediately confirmed --
comes as the two east African neighbours stepped up their war, which resumed
May 10.
Tens of thousands of people on both sides are said to have died in the past
few days. The United Nations has imposed an arms embargo in an effort to
force both sides back to negotiations.
On Wednesday Ethiopian troops seized control of the key town of Barentu, 40
kilometres (25 miles) inside Eritrean territory. Akordat, situated further
north, has also been evacuated, an aid worker told AFP.
"Our forces were overpowered by the (Ethiopian) numbers," Eritrean
presidential spokesman Yemane Ghebremeskel told AFP in Asmara.
The head of Eritrea's relief organisation called for air drops within 24
hours to feed more than half a million people she said had been displaced by
the invasion.
Eritrea made much of the fact that the town it lost, Barentu is beyond the
contested areas that are ostensibly the cause of what diplomats have
described as Africa's bloodiest and most senseless war.
The Massawa strikes push the conflict even further away from the
Ethiopian-Eritrean border.
"We don't have a full military picture yet, but we do know that in spite of
Ethiopia's denials, they were assaulting our side with human waves of
troops," Yemane said.
"What is clear is that this is not a border issue for Ethiopia. They have
much larger goals in mind," he argued, adding that there was now "a very
large area now under the invasion of the Ethiopian army."
"This is a clear invasion. If the UN Security Council doesn't ... impose
harsh sanctions against Ethiopia then the UN is failing in its duty. It is
diluting its own charter and principles," accused Yemane.
The United Nations, like Clinton, has called for calm but not yet taken
sides in the dispute.
The UN Security Council imposed wide-ranging military sanctions for 12
months on both Ethiopia and Eritrea late Wednesday in an effort to force
them to stop fighting and start negotiations.
"The resolution is completely unjustified as it does not differentiate
between the two countries," Yemane complained Thursday.
The Security Council "needed to impose measures that could have impacted on
Ethiopia's ability to wage war," Yemane went on, noting that economic
sanctions would have hurt Ethiopia's ability to bring in hard currency
needed for weapons purchases.
Clinton called on Ethiopia's and Eritrea's to both exercise common sense,
denouncing the renewal of violence between the two countries and promising
the United States would pursue efforts to bring peace.
"For over two years, we've worked with the OAU (Organization of African
Unity) to resolve that dispute. We won't abandon the effort," Clinton said.
"But Ethiopia and Eritrea must first see that backing away from
self-destruction is not the same thing as backing down. Giving your people a
future is not cowardice, it's common sense and courage," Clinton said at a
White House ceremony for the signing a bill to expand US trade with
sub-Saharan African, central American and Caribbean countries.

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