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UN Condemns Eritrea's Decision To Expel Western Peacekeepers


In a strongly worded statement, the United Nations Security Council has condemned Eritrea's decision to expel Western members of the U.N. peacekeeping mission. U.N. diplomats say they will not pull out any members of the mission in Eritrea.

In a rapid response to Eritrea's decision, the Security Council issued a statement unequivocally demanding that Eritrea "immediately reverse its decision without preconditions."

The statement condemns Eritrea's order that members of the mission from Canada, Europe, the Russian Federation and the United States leave within 10 days. U.N. diplomats say they have no explanation why Eritrean authorities singled out specific nationalities. But U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean Marie Guehenno, who briefed the Council, said Eritrea is obligated to respect the exclusively international nature of the peacekeeping operation. "The essence of a peacekeeping operation is that it is international community as a whole, standing together. That principal has wide ranging implications that go beyond the specific Eritrea-Ethiopia mission. We will not let that principle be put in jeopardy," she said.

Mr. Guehenno says the United Nations has no intention of pulling out of Eritrea, where it has already been subjected to restrictions over flights and oil. He says U.N. officials understand Eritrea's frustration with the slow pace of the peace process with Ethiopia and rising tensions along the disputed boundary between the two nations. Eritrea and Ethiopia have endured an uneasy peace since ending a two-year border war in 2000. Eritrea says the United Nations is not doing enough to pressure Ethiopia to respect the independently drawn up demarcation.

The president of the Security Council, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, says he plans a meeting of troop-contributing nations Thursday. He says member states must do whatever is necessary to encourage restraint bilaterally or the Council will take further action. "I don't really want to speculate on those at the moment. What we will try to do is encourage the right response. But if we don't get that response within a matter of a few days, then the Council is going to have to come back to it, and it will come back to it, within the next two weeks. It is potentially a very serious situation. Some of the actions have aggravated that situation. We must do everything possible to minimize risk of reemergence of conflict," he said.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan attended the Security Council briefing and put out a similar statement, calling on Eritrea to rescind its decision.