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Britain Wants Red Cross Access to Ethiopian Detainees

Great Britain has suspended a planned 36 million dollar aid increase to Ethiopia to protest the killings of 36 people last week in election-related demonstrations. Not affected is Britain’s 108 million dollar annual contribution to Ethiopia’s budget.

Britain is also calling on Ethiopia to allow the Red Cross to meet with the detainees.

The Ethiopian police have confirmed for the first time that many people are being held in a base south of the capital. Ethiopia’s Minister of Information, Bereket Simone, told VOA English to Africa Service reporter William Eagle that it’s difficult to give a precise number on those in detention, since suspects are being detained or released on a daily basis. He says many are being held in Zewai camp, south of the capital.

Mr. Bereket dismisses opposition claims that the government used so-called “agazi” forces from Tigray province to put down the protests. He says the protesters overwhelmed the riot police, and the government brought in a force based south of the city to handle the disturbances. According to Mr. Bereket, the contingent was made up of men from Ethiopia’s various ethnically based regions.