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Annan Decries Eritrea's 'Pattern of Hostility' Toward UN

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has denounced Eritrea's arrest of a U.N. staff member and its decision to expel five U.N. security workers accused of spying.

In a statement released by his office late Wednesday, Mr. Annan criticized what he called a "pattern of hostility" by Eritrea toward U.N. workers that he said violates the country's obligations under the U.N. Charter.

His office called on Eritrea to release the staff member and rescind the expulsions.

The U.N. says Eritrea has not explained why it arrested the staff member, who works for the U.N. mission watching the Eritrea-Ethiopia border.

On Tuesday, Eritrean officials accused the five security staff from Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, Liberia and Trinidad and Tobago of spying and building radio communication facilities.

An Eritrean presidential spokesman Yemane Gebremeskel told VOA the expulsions do not reflect a bias against the U.N. mission.

U.N. peacekeepers are overseeing the implementation of a ceasefire agreement that Eritrea and Ethiopia signed in 2000. The East African neighbors fought a two-year border war that killed about 70,000 people.

Eritrea has expressed frustration in the past that the United Nations has not forced Ethiopia to comply with an independent border commission ruling that awarded the town of Badme to Eritrea.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.