- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 10, 2005

Eritrea’s warning

The ambassador of Eritrea fears his country could be drawn into another border war because of Ethiopia’s refusal to abide by an international pact that ended the last conflict between the neighbors in the Horn of Africa.

Ambassador Girma Asmerom said yesterday that the latest report of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission to the U.N. Security Council faults Ethiopia for its continued obstruction of an agreement that both countries accepted in 2002. The Security Council could consider the report as early as today.

Mr. Asmerom urged the United Nations to penalize Ethiopia.

“International law is respected only if it is enforced,” he said.

Ethiopia began delaying tactics shortly after the commission established the border between the two countries. The commission’s “Delimitation Decision” was supposed to be final and lead to the demarcation process under which the border would be marked with hundreds of pillars to physically display the boundary.

In its Feb. 24 report, the commission noted that Ethiopia refused to send representatives to a proposed meeting in London to discuss its complaints about the border decision.

“This is the latest in a series of obstructive actions taken since the summer of 2002,” the report said of Ethiopia.

Eritrea agreed to the London meeting, although it continued to insist that the commission’s border decision be enforced.

Ethiopian Ambassador Kassahun Ayele could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his government has said the commission’s border decision was unfair.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi called the work of the commission “totally illegal, unjust and irresponsible” in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2003, a year after accepting the commission’s decision.

Mr. Asmerom said the United Nations, which maintains 3,500 peacekeepers in Eritrea, has failed to demand that Ethiopia withdraw from several border areas that the commission assigned to Eritrea. He said he is trying to draw U.S. attention to the dispute before the conflict turns violent.

“History could be repeating itself,” he said.

The last war, which began 1998, ended two years later with 120,000 Ethiopians and 19,000 Eritreans dead. The ambassador said Eritrea’s losses were fewer because it fought a defensive war, while Ethiopia sent human waves against secure Eritrean positions.

Mr. Asmerom noted that the world’s attention is focused on a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, while ignoring a potential crisis in the strategic Horn of Africa.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki wrote to President Bush in January to alert him to the danger.

“Ethiopia has defied [the commission] for almost three years now with impunity,” he said. “Ethiopia continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories by force.”

Mr. Afwerki added, “Eritrea’s inherent right of self-defense under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter cannot be questioned, and we will have no option but to consider appropriate means for securing our sovereignty if the international community shies away from exercising its responsibilities.”

Singapore secure

The United States will install equipment to detect radioactive materials in Singapore’s port to prevent the smuggling of dirty bombs, U.S. Ambassador Frank Lavin said yesterday.

“The United States and Singapore both recognize the need to remain vigilant against the threat posed by the trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials,” Mr. Lavin said, as he signed an agreement with Singapore for the United States to pay for the equipment.

Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports, is the first Southeast Asian nation to join the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s “megaport initiative.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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