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World - Africa

Ethiopians celebrate victory, as Eritrea reports new combat

Fighting last week in Badme

iconINTERACTIVE:
Eritrea: A close look

Ethiopia: A close look

MESSAGE BOARD:
Ethiopia v. Eritrea
 

February 28, 1999
Web posted at: 4:25 p.m. EST (2125 GMT)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (CNN) -- Ethiopia declared a major victory on Sunday in its border war with Horn of Africa neighbor Eritrea, amid reports of continued fighting along the disputed frontier.

"The defense forces of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, in spite of such a large enemy military presence, were in the space of four days able to win a total victory, destroying the enemy army and sending them into total disarray," the government said in a statement.

Ethiopia stopped short of declaring the war won. But it made clear that it considered its gains at Badme -- 990 kilometers (605 miles) north of the capital of Addis Ababa -- the decisive victory in a battle that has simmered since June.

On Saturday, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told the U.N. Security Council that Eritrea was ready to abide by the Organization for African Unity's plan to end the conflict. Ethiopia had already endorsed the OAU proposal.

Eritrea's turnabout came after Ethiopian troops breached its lines at Badme on Friday and continued advancing, seizing as much as 10 kilometers (6 miles) of territory that Eritrea had claimed.

Ethiopians greeted news of Eritrea's abrupt acceptance of the peace plan with jubilation. Taxis in Addis Ababa blared their horns and crowds waved the country's green, yellow and red flag after the news was broadcast on state radio.

But in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, one resident said the mood was one of "shock and disbelief."

Despite Eritrea's decision to accept the peace plan, its government said fighting continued around Badme.

Eritrean presidential adviser Yermane Gebremeskel said Ethiopia launched a fresh assault at 11 a.m. (0800 GMT) all along the 60-km (40-mile) Badme front in the highlands.

Ethiopian government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse denied the report, calling it a "pure and simple lie." Taddesse added that there was "no Eritrean force to fight against in Badme."

Eritrea seceded peacefully from Ethiopia in 1993, and the two countries were allies for several years. But their long- running border dispute turned violent last year, and the simmering dispute erupted into open warfare in early February.

The peace plan calls on both sides to withdraw to positions held before the conflict erupted last May.

Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Eritrea reports heavy fighting with Ethiopia
February 24, 1999
Eritrea says it has turned back Ethiopian attack
February 23, 1999
Ethiopia says it bombed strategic Eritrean airport
February 21, 1999

MESSAGE BOARD:
Ethiopia v. Eritrea

RELATED SITES:
Ethiopia Page
Eritrea Page
Government of Eritrea
Eritrean Network Information Center
CyberEthiopia
United Front of Ethiopians - Ethiopian National Congress
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