Tuesday, October 31, 2006

U.N. chief warns that Ethiopia-Eritrea tensions could explode without attention

The Associated Press
Published: October 30, 2006

WASHINGTON U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says persistent conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea represents a "classic example of the tragedy" of Africa and warned that world attention is needed to keep another war from erupting between the Horn of Africa neighbors.

Annan said U.N. officials are "doing whatever we can to bring the two parties together" but have not able to get the nations to cooperate with each other.

"We need to handle it very carefully before it leads to another explosion," Annan said during a speech at Georgetown University, where he received an honorary degree.

The tragedy, he said, is that "two poor countries, desperately in need of development" to help their poor citizens, have instead spent hundreds of millions of dollars to arm their militaries for a fight over territory.

Relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been consistently strained since Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. A 2 1/2-year border war ended with a cease-fire agreement in 2000, but tensions have continued.

Annan said in his speech that while Africa has seen economic and other improvements during his decade as head of the United Nations, much of the continent still faces disease, war, famine and dire poverty.

Annan, an African — he hails from Ghana — whose second and final five-year term ends Dec. 31, said, "Africa needs more and better aid; it needs fairer trade; and it needs a green revolution to improve agricultural production and feed all its people."

The continent's wars "cry for African resolve and international attention," he said. He noted that about half the world's armed conflicts and three-quarters of the United Nations' peacekeepers are in Africa.

A bright spot is the election of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected woman president in Africa, which, Annan said, "speaks more eloquently about advances in the rights of women than words ever could."

Source: iht.


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