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Eritrea, Ethiopia clash near Red Sea port
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.
"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.
Ethiopia seeks 'international guarantees' before withdrawal from Eritrea
Organization of African Unity (OAU)
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