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World - Africa

Ethiopia says it bombed strategic Eritrean airport

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InteractiveINTERACTIVE
Eritrea: A close look

Ethiopia: A close look

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February 21, 1999
Web posted at: 8:43 a.m. EST (1343 GMT)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (CNN) -- The Ethiopian government said its warplanes bombed an airport in the strategic Eritrean town of Assab on Sunday.

Government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse said the planes bombed an airport runway, inflicting heavy damage.

"This airport is a strategic military target which Eritrea could use to launch an offensive against Ethiopia," Selome said. "Ethiopia will go on hitting selected military positions in Eritrea."

Selome had no further details, and there was no comment from the Eritrean government.

Assab is a port town at the southern end of the Red Sea. It was a vital trade conduit for landlocked Ethiopia until last May, when a border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea erupted into war.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia on friendly terms in 1993, but a battle over a remote tract of land along the border simmered. Last May's fighting subsided, but flared again February 6.

EU tries to broker cease-fire

A delegation from the European Union held separate talks with Eritrean President Isayas Afewerki and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin over the weekend, but left Saturday without securing a cease-fire agreement between the two countries.

"It was a waste of time and money," said a senior Western diplomat in Asmara, Eritrea. "It didn't work before. What makes them think it will work this time? It seems more of a political gesture to show that the EU cares."

Delegate Benita Ferrero-Waldner, state secretary for the Austrian Foreign Affairs Ministry, disputed that assertion.

"I think it was no waste of time because it was very important to explore and to sound out with the parties where there might be bridges for the future," she said.

The EU efforts to secure peace were based on a framework put together by the Organization of African Unity. That proposal calls for Eritrea to withdraw to territory it held before the May border conflict.

Eritrea rejects that part of the agreement, instead calling for both armies to withdraw from the disputed territory, which would then be monitored by a peacekeeping force.

Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Ethiopian planes bomb Eritrean reservoir
February 16, 1999
Bombing raids renew Ethiopian-Eritrean fighting
February 14, 1999
Cease-fire calls ignored in Ethiopia-Eritrea war
February 12, 1999
Call for cease-fire falls flat in Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict
February 11, 1999
U.N. calls for cease-fire to stop 'disaster' in Horn of Africa
February 10, 1999
Eritrea claims advantage in border war with Ethiopia
February 9, 1999

RELATED SITES:
United Nations Home Page
    SECURITY COUNCIL
Department of African Studies
Ethiopia Page
Eritrea Page
Government of Eritrea
Eritrean Network Information Center
CyberEthiopia
United Front of Ethiopians - Ethiopian National Congress
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