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Eritrea Still Obstructing Relocation -- UN Mission

Eritrea continues obstructing relocation, UN mission says

21 February 2008 - Eritrea is still blocking the temporary move of the United Nations peacekeeping mission across the border to Ethiopia, the mission to the neighbouring Horn of Africa countries reported today, as UN blue helmets and other personnel continued to regroup in Asmara to facilitate the relocation.

The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said that Eritrean militiamen have held back a vehicle carrying two peacekeepers attempting to travel to Asmara from the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ), and they could not proceed until Asmara had given instructions.

Four armoured personnel carriers that had been held up by Eritrea since 17 February in Om Hajer, a border post in the country's far west, were allowed to travel to Asmara today.

These developments come as Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), briefed the Security Council today in a closed meeting on UNMEE's temporary relocation efforts.

In comments to the press following the briefing, Ambassador Ricardo Alberto Arias of Panama, which holds the rotating Council presidency, said the 15-member panel "condemned Eritrea's systematic violations of successive Security Council resolutions."

Mr. Arias said the Council backed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's efforts to resolve the situation and was waiting now for his special report on the issue.

Earlier this month, the UN decided to relocate to Ethiopia after Eritrea cut off diesel fuel supplies to the Mission, paralyzing the operation on that side of the border.

Additionally, food stocks are also running extremely low for blue helmets after a commercial company supplying rations to UNMEE said it would no longer fulfil its contractual obligations.

Asmara's lack of cooperation has hindered UNMEE's move to Ethiopia, and the mission's personnel and equipment began regrouping this weekend in a bid to speed up the relocation.

ENDS

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