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Eritrean Obstruction Strands 100+ Blue Helmets

Latest Eritrean obstruction of relocation efforts strands over 100 blue helmets

29 February 2008 - Eritrea's latest obstruction of the efforts by the United Nations peacekeeping mission to temporarily relocate across the border in Ethiopia have resulted in more than 100 blue helmets being stranded inside the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between the two Horn of Africa nations.

In the southern town of Senafe today, Eritrean soldiers blocked the movement of the mission's personnel and equipment as it seeks to regroup its staff and assets in Asmara ahead of its temporary relocation to Ethiopia.

This most recent obstruction has left 102 peacekeepers from the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) stuck in the TSZ, with 21 vehicles sent to collect them unable to do so, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters in New York.

Also today, an additional 13 blue helmets and 8 UN vehicles were also stopped by Eritrean soldiers at the same Senafe checkpoint.

Azouz Ennifar, the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative, today was reassured over the telephone by Eritrean authorities that there have been no explicit instructions from the Government to prevent UNMEE from relocating.

In spite of the obstructions, the mission reports that only two camps remain to be vacated, and UNMEE's military headquarters near the town of Barentu will be relocated by this Sunday.

All military observers have been accounted for, with 104 moved to Asmara and 11 in the port town of Assab.

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

ENDS

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