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Eritrea, Ethiopia clash near Red Sea port

conflict
 

June 5, 2000
Web posted at: 1:55 p.m. EDT (1755 GMT)

ASMARA, Eritrea (CNN) -- Eritrea on Monday accused its Horn of Africa neighbor of targeting for capture its main Red Sea port, but Ethiopia said its forces had moved closer to Assab in response to "provocations" from the other side.

The two former allies were still holding indirect peace talks in Algiers as their armies faced off deep within Eritrean territory, where Ethiopian troops took up positions after a major offensive during the last three weeks of the 2-year-old border war.

Eritrea said it had inflicted heavy losses on Ethiopian ground troops near Assab over the weekend, but Ethiopia scoffed at the claim.

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VideoCarol Pineau reports for CNN with an interview with Eritrean President Isaias. (June 4)
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VideoCNN's Catherine Bond observes the growth of what once was a small dispute into all-out fighting between Ethiopia and Eritrea. (June 3)
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VideoReporter Carol Pineau looks at the attacks that are causing many Eritreans to flee their homes.
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"I don't know how an army which has been running for its life for the past three weeks can speak of any damage," said Ethiopian government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse.

Eritrean presidential adviser Yemane Gebremeskel said he expected no further ground assaults without reinforcements.

"There is heavy shelling and movements of their aircraft," he said. "We are just responding and defending our positions."

Ethiopia announced on May 31 that the war -- which began in May 1998 when Eritrea took possession of disputed lands along the 998-kilometer (620-mile) border -- had ended after Ethiopia had retaken all the land Eritrea had occupied.

But Eritrea, which had earlier announced a withdrawal from the disputed territories, has accused Ethiopia of continuing its offensive.

Peace talks move slowly

Negotiators in Algiers have made little headway toward a peace agreement, although both sides have said they are willing to abide by an Organization for African Unity-sponsored plan proposed last year. Both, however, accuse the other of violating the agreement.

Eritrea has long believed Ethiopia had designs on Assab. After Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war, Eritrea's larger neighbor was left landlocked. Ethiopia insists it has no long-term goals inside Eritrea.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi were allies in a rebel insurgency that toppled military dictator Haile Mengistu Mariam in 1991.

But Isaias and Meles never finished settling their borders, a dispute that eventually erupted into a devastating war for two countries already among the world's poorest. Additionally, drought has brought a serious famine into the Horn this year.

Journalist Carol Pineau andReuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Ethiopia seeks 'international guarantees' before withdrawal from Eritrea
June 1, 2000
Ethiopia bombs Eritrean capital as peace talks open
May 29, 2000
Eritrea leaves prized border town in ruins for Ethiopia
May 26, 2000
Eritrea announces withdrawal in Horn of Africa war
May 25, 2000
Ethiopian, Eritrean armies in crucial border fight
May 23, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Organization of African Unity (OAU)
Government of Eritrea
Eritrean Network Information Center
Welcome To Ethiopia Online
United Front of Ethiopians - Ethiopian National Congress
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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