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UNMEE To Relocate Unless Eritrea Ends Restrictions

UN mission to relocate unless Eritrea lifts fuel restrictions in next two days

4 February 2008 - Given the critical fuel levels impeding the work of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said the mission will start relocating from Eritrea if that country's Government does not lift its restrictions by Wednesday.

In a letter sent to the Security Council last Friday, Mr. Ban pointed out that the Mission's fuel stocks will run out in the coming few days, leaving only the strategic reserves, which are intended exclusively for emergency evacuation purposes.

The Secretary-General said that if the Eritrean authorities do not reinstate the fuel supplies by 6 February, he will be compelled to instruct UNMEE to begin relocating the mission personnel and equipment from Eritrea, to avoid a total immobilization of the Mission and endangering the safety and security of UN personnel.

UNMEE, which has been monitoring the 2000 ceasefire that ended the border war between the two countries, has not been able to obtain fresh supplies of fuel in Eritrea since 1 December last year, according to the acting head of the Mission.

"These restrictions are paralyzing the mission and its movements and making the living conditions of our civilian and military staff on the ground extremely difficult," Azouz Ennifar said just over a week ago.

Last week, as it extended the Mission's mandate for a further six months, the Council demanded that the Eritrean Government "resumes immediately fuel shipments to UNMEE or allows UNMEE to import fuel without restrictions."

The 15-member body today once again voiced its concern about the fact that the fuel restrictions have not yet been lifted. In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias of Panama, which holds the rotating presidency this month, the Council reiterated its demand that Eritrea "forthwith and without preconditions lifts its restrictions on fuel deliveries so that UNMEE be in a position to execute its extended mandate."

The Council also requested Eritrea to facilitate a UN technical assessment mission which is due to depart for the region tomorrow.

ENDS

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