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UN Mission in Eritrea at Risk Due to Lack of Fuel


The U.N. Secretary-General has warned that the mission in Eritrea may have to shut down soon because Eritrean authorities have blocked the delivery of fuel supplies to the peacekeepers. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

In his report to the Security Council, Ban Ki-moon says he is seriously concerned that if not resolved immediately, the stoppage of fuel supplies for nearly the past two months will completely immobilize the mission's operations in the coming weeks.

In a departure from the normal six-month extension of such missions, the secretary-general has recommended that the Security Council only renew the UNMEE mandate for one month, while developments on the ground are reviewed.

The Secretary-General's deputy special representative for Ethiopia and Eritrea, Azouz Ennifar, briefed the Security Council Friday on the situation. He said fuel shortages on the Eritrean side are paralyzing the mission and its movements and making living conditions of its civilian and military staff difficult.

"The mission on the Eritrean side is not getting fuel," he said. "We live on our stocks. We have certain quantities that we have been able to keep that we are using, but we are using them with a little care, which is greatly affecting the living conditions of our people on the ground and also affecting the monitoring capacity of the mission. We move less than we used to in the past. We are patrolling less, so that we use less fuel so as to stretch as much as possible whatever we have."

Normally local contractors supply fuel to the U.N., but that has stopped since December 1. Ennifar says Eritrean authorities have not responded to U.N. requests to import fuel from other sources.

The envoy says a decision on the Eritrean mission's future will have to be made sometime next month, when the fuel will likely run out.

Nearly 1,700 U.N. peacekeepers are on the ground in Ethiopia and Eritrea, monitoring the disputed border between the two countries.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two-year border war starting in 1998 that claimed 70,000 lives. The dispute over the 1,000-kilometer border remains unresolved despite a peace accord reached in 2000.

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