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Ethiopian Government, Opposition Negotiate Peace Agreement

The Ethiopian government and the opposition are negotiating how to implement an agreement to end recent political violence over the provisional results of May's elections. Observers say the next few weeks of vote-counting and the successful resolution of election complaints will be critical to Ethiopia's future.

The ruling coalition and two opposition groups signed the agreement last Friday, but have yet to implement the deal.

The head of investigations at the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Birhanu Tsigu, said he hopes Monday's negotiations will smooth out any disagreements. The deal is designed to address irregularities and other complaints arising from the May 15 elections. "Hopefully, it will bring about some peaceful settlement of the matter. [The agreement] is regarding the vote-counting process and the investigation of complaints," he said.

The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia is currently investigating irregularities in 299 constituencies. European Union observers monitoring the elections had reported concerns about vote-rigging and allegations of intimidation.

Last week, demonstrators and police clashed over provisional election results, which indicate a victory for the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. Opposition parties and others have accused the ruling coalition of massive vote-rigging and other fraud.

More than 20 people were killed and scores injured during last week's violence. The Ethiopian government also revoked the press credentials of Ethiopian journalists working for VOA and the German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

Several opposition officials were put under house arrest shortly after Friday's signing of the peace agreement.

International Crisis Group analyst Matt Bryden said Ethiopia's long-term stability will depend on how investigations of the disputed constituencies will be handled. "The electoral observers at the moment are beginning to have real doubts about how the counting has been conducted, and is being conducted. If they cannot certify this election, then I think the opposition is going to feel that they have grounds to reject the results, and that would put us in a very dangerous situation," he said.

Final election results are scheduled to be announced July 8.