- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 28, 2006

NAIROBI, Kenya — Eritrea has fiercely attacked U.S. policy in the tense Horn of Africa region, purporting “evil attempts” to derail an international ruling awarding it a disputed town on the border with former foe Ethiopia.

The Information Ministry published an editorial effectively accusing Washington of siding with Eritrea’s neighbor, 10 days after a U.S. mediator said she had been barred from traveling to the border where a war from 1998 to 2000 cost 70,000 lives.

Tensions along the 620-mile border have increased in recent months, sparking fears of a resumption of hostilities.

“The current extremely saddening and dangerous situation is the outcome of the erroneous U.S. foreign policy,” said the article, published on the ministry’s Web site late Friday.

Eritrea, about one-tenth the size of Ethiopia and with about 5 percent of its population, is angry that world powers have failed to use their considerable leverage with aid-dependent Ethiopia to push it to honor the peace treaty that ended the two-year war.

Under the accord, both sides agreed to abide by a ruling by independent specialists on the border dispute, but Addis Ababa called for more dialogue when the decision was issued in 2002 because it gave the flash-point town of Badme to Eritrea.

The top American diplomat for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, visited the region this month in a bid to restart the paralyzed peace process, but U.S. officials said she canceled a trip to Eritrea because it refused to help her travel to the border.

Eritrea, which won its independence from Ethiopia 15 years ago, has repeatedly rejected any diplomatic initiative that does not focus on enforcing demarcation of the border.

“The evil attempts made to derail the verdict of the international body by creating different intriguing proposals has encouraged the [Ethiopian government] to ignore and discard the decision of the Boundary Commission,” the editorial said.

Trying to force action on the border, Eritrea last year cranked up its rhetoric, ejected Western personnel from the U.N. mission, restricted U.N. troop movements and banned helicopter flights over the buffer zone on the border.

The editorial also accused the United States of involvement in provoking and igniting the 1998-2000 conflict, “resulting in bloodshed affecting a great number of people.” It did not elaborate but criticized U.S. policies in the region after World War II, when it said Eritrea was “made to suffer the fate” of becoming part of Ethiopia.

Washington feared during the Cold War that an independent Eritrea would come under Soviet influence and arranged for it to be yoked in a federation to U.S. client Ethiopia in 1952. Emperor Haile Selassie annexed Eritrea in 1962, triggering a guerrilla struggle that ended in its independence in 1991.

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