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Eritrea is Unjustly Criminalized, Says Official

  • Peter Clottey

Eritrea President Isaias Afewerki’s administration accuses Washington of masterminding a recent UN imposed sanctions.

Eritrea President Isaias Afewerki’s administration accuses Washington of masterminding a recent UN imposed sanctions.

A top official of Eritrea’s government says the administration is vindicated after a United Nations report said Asmara’s support for hard line Somali insurgents had either diminished or become less visible.

A top official of Eritrea’s government says the administration is vindicated after a United Nations report said Asmara’s support for hard line Somali insurgents had either diminished or become less visible.

Girma Asmerom, Eritrea’s ambassador to Belgium denied President Isaias Afewerki’s administration had been supporting Islamic insurgents who have vowed to overthrow the internationally-backed Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

“We are not only vindicated that is the reality and that is what we’ve been saying. And we have never ever supplied any ammunition or financial support to anybody in Somalia. So, we have been criminalized and unjustly accused for our thinking out of the box, for just simply saying that Somalis must be left alone and they should resolve their problem through their internal dynamic reconciliation conference,” he said.

The report compiled by the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia is scheduled to be presented to the UN Security Council this week.

It said Asmara violated a 2008 arms embargo against various armed groups in Somalia by supporting insurgents fighting the TFG.

The report said Eritrea supported hard line insurgents despite being under United Nations sanctions.

It said President Afewerki’s government appears to have scaled down its military assistance while continuing to provide political, diplomatic and possibly financial support to insurgents.

But ambassador Asmerom dismissed the report as untrue.

“This is a watered down resolution. If you look at the resolution in the UN-Security Council illegal sanctions…clearly that’s what it says because in the past we were accused of military support. (But) finally when we started challenging them that they don’t have any evidence, they started watering it down to diplomatic and political support kind of thing,” Asmerom said.

Last year, the United Nations Security Council imposed arms and travel sanctions on Eritrea for allegedly supporting hard line Somali insurgents -- a charge Eritrea denies.

The Security Council also expressed concern in the resolution over Asmara’s rejection of the UN-backed 2008 Djibouti Agreement between the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS).

Eritrea has often accused the United States of masterminding the recent UN-imposed sanctions. But diplomats reportedly said Uganda, which has peacekeeping troops in Somalia, drafted the resolution after the African Union called on the Council in May 2009 to punish Eritrea over its role in Somalia.

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