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Ethiopia and Eritrea urged to settle dispute
December 14, 2004

Addis Ababa - German President Horst Köhler has urged Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea on Monday to peacefully settle their border dispute, saying neither country could afford another conflict.

The Horn of Africa nations could not finance a repeat of their 1998-2000 border war, which cost each country an estimated $1-million (R5,8-million) a day and left about 70 000 people dead, he said.

Ethiopia in November accepted "in principle" a ruling on its shared border with Eritrea that was made as part of a peace deal ending the two-and-a-half-year war. The ruling was made by an internationally appointed commission.

But Ethiopia demanded the right to negotiate the implementation of the ruling, a move rejected by Eritrea, which warned fighting could again erupt if the demarcation of the disputed 1 000km border is not settled.

Ethiopia demanded the right to negotiate the implementation of the ruling
"I very much hope that those statements would be limited to rhetorical level, because if they go beyond the rhetorical they can seriously endanger the peace of the region," Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said at a joint news conference with Köhler.

Tensions rose last week when Eritrea accused Ethiopia of sending troops into a remote Eritrean village in November. Eritrea charged that the Ethiopians looted the village and abducted five
people - allegations denied by Ethiopia.

"Both countries, both peoples here in this region can't think that war is in their interest," Köhler said on his first state visit since assuming the German presidency, a largely ceremonial role.

Earlier on Monday, Germany wrote off £67-million (R510-million) in debt owed by Ethiopia.

Köhler is on a four-country tour of Africa, which has included stops in Sierra Leone and Benin and is to end in neighbouring Djibouti. - Sapa-AP


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