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UN Expresses Concern About The New Tensions Between Eritrea and Ethiopia

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan briefed a Security Council meeting on reports of rising tensions along the disputed border between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

U.N. diplomats are alarmed by reports from peacekeepers of military movement from both nations in the direction of the security zone near the border.

An independent commission drew up the border after a two year war between Eritrea and Ethiopia that ended in 2000. But Ethiopia has refused to accept the boundary. Eritrea says the United Nations is not doing enough to pressure Ethiopia to accept the demarcation. Last month Eritrea restricted helicopter flights by U.N. peacekeepers, hampering their ability to patrol the buffer zone.

Mr. Annan says the Security Council must find a way to resolve the stalemate between the two nations over about 15 percent of the border before a miscalculation leads to war. "We are caught in a stalemate where Eritrea maintains 'implement the decision and all will be well'. Ethiopia maintains 'Yes, we accept the decision, but we would want to start to discuss before we implement and that our relationship is much more complicated than just a border so that at the end we will have a warm peace, not a cold peace.' So we have to find a way of breaking this impasse and moving forward with a solution," he said.

Meanwhile, Japan's United Nations ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, will leave Sunday to visit U.N. peacekeeping officials in the region in his capacity as the chairman of the Security Council's working group on peacekeeping operations. Mr. Oshima says he also hopes to meet with representatives of both governments as a courtesy.

"My mission is limited in scope and nature. It is to find out how the situation is along the border from U.N. officials and report back to the Security Council. My mission is not about negotiating any hard issues nor is it to convey a new message over and above what the Security Council has stated," he said.