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Ethiopian Leader Rules Out War Over Border with Eritrea - 2004-07-06

Ethiopia's prime minister says that he is committed to finding a peaceful solution to the border dispute with Eritrea. He stressed more fighting would endanger development in the Horn of Africa and the rest of the continent. Meles Zenawi also called on international donors to do their part for African development.

Meles Zenawi told reporters late Monday Ethiopia's conflict with neighboring Eritrea over their shared border is a problem for both countries.

He said he is committed to settling the dispute peacefully.

"Ethiopia unequivocally rules out anything other than a pacifist way of resolving this problem," he said. "Ethiopia is unequivocally ruling out means of resolving this problem that are not peaceful. We may not yet have the final solution as far as a peaceful solution is concerned, but Ethiopia is saying only a peaceful solution will do. War must and should be out of the question whether it is between Ethiopia and Eritrea, or anybody else."

The exact location of the border was the cause of a brutal war between the two countries from 1998 to 2000 in which an estimated 70,000 people died. As part of a peace deal signed in 2000, a boundary commission was set up to mark the borderline.

But Ethiopia rejected the commission's subsequent ruling, arguing that an area called Badme that was awarded to Eritrea should belong to Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Meles made his remarks at a press conference following an all-day session on tackling the problem of hunger in Africa.

He told reporters African governments have failed to create the environment to stimulate economic growth.

"The key area where Africa has failed, has to do with governance and the related issue of peace and stability," he noted. "Without peace and stability, there cannot be a sustained attack on poverty and hunger. And there, we in Africa are the main causes of the problems of instability in our continent."

He criticized some African governments for misusing their resources and adopting development strategies based on handouts from abroad. But he said international donors were also to blame for not following through with their funding commitments.

Head of the U.N. Millennium Project Task Force on Hunger, Jeffrey Sachs, agreed. Speaking on the eve of the summit, he said, if Western countries do not cancel Africa's $200 billion debt, the countries themselves should refuse to repay it.

Mr. Sachs criticized Western donor nations for not living up to their commitments to allocate .7 percent of their gross domestic product to development aid. He said the United States was among the worst offenders.