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Eritrea, Ethiopia distrustful despite readiness to sign peace agreement
ASMARA, Eritrea (CNN) -- The war of words between Eritrea and Ethiopia continued on Thursday, fueling worries that their two-year-old conflict may not end with Sunday's signing of a peace agreement.
The proposal to end hostilities, brokered by the Organization of African Unity and agreed to by Ethiopia on Wednesday, calls for a United Nations peacekeeping force to be deployed along a 620-mile long border between the two Horn of Africa neighbors.
Until the border is demarcated, a 15-mile wide buffer will keep the armies away from each other.
Eritrea, which has been on the losing side of the war, accepted the proposal on June 9 but has reservations about it. Eritrean officials have accused Ethiopia of looking for loopholes in the OAU plan.
Under the agreement, Ethiopian troops will remain on Eritrean soil until peacekeepers arrive. That could take two months or more, and in the meantime there would be no independent verification of the situation in Eritrea.
Should fighting break out, there would be no way of knowing which side fired first, Eritrean officials say.
Punitive damages provided for in the agreement, primarily sanctions, would be difficult to enforce without verification on the ground.
Ethiopia insists that the proposal to end the hostilities is consistent with its objectives.
"The valiant national defense forces of Ethiopia have successfully accomplished their mission by liberating Ethiopia's territories from the Eritrean aggressors and have incapacitated the fighting capability of the Eritrean army," the state-owned Herald newspaper said.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said negotiations were still needed for a comprehensive peace agreement -- including the issue of compensation for civilian victims.
"We have no intention of playing fast and loose with this document, with the OAU process," Meles told diplomats in Addis Ababa. "We only hope that this time around the other side really means what it says."
Eritrean officials say they are concerned that looting and the destruction of property will continue until peacekeepers arrive.
Another concern for Eritreans is the Ethiopian occupation of the country's most fertile land. Normally, farmers would now be planting seeds before the rains expected to begin later this month.
With a good crop, the grain harvest would be enough to feed a large part of Eritrea's population.
However, those farm workers are now in displacement camps and, instead of feeding a nation, they need to be fed.
Reporter Carol Pineau and Reuters contributed to this report.
Ethiopia says it will end war with Eritrea
Organization of African Unity (OAU)
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