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Border Dispute with Ethiopia Settled, Says Eritrea

Eritrea has rejected the appointment of a former Canadian foreign minister to mediate the long-running border dispute with Ethiopia because, it says, the dispute has already been settled. Eritrea's special envoy to Somalia, Yohannes Berhe, told VOA his government has nothing personal against the former Canadian foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy.

But he said the border issue has been settled under the terms of a peace agreement that ended the two-year border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2000.

Mr. Berhe says Ethiopia should respect last year's decision by the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, which was set up under the peace agreement, to include a disputed area called Badme within Eritrea's boundaries.

Ethiopia was reportedly upset with the commission's decision on Badme, and its objection was said to be one reason why last November the commission suspended its border demarcation exercise indefinitely.

"We have not objected to his appointment," said an Ethiopian official last week. His government was pleased with Mr. Axworthy's appointment. "What we are saying is we do not want any other mechanism. The verdict should be implemented first," he added. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said last week the situation between the two neighbors in the Horn of Africa, in his words, remains difficult, even precarious. He said Eritrea's inflammatory rhetoric is making the peace process more difficult. The exact location of the border was the cause of a brutal war from 1998 to 2000 in which an estimated 70,000 people died. As part of the peace deal signed in 2000, the independent boundary commission was to set markers along the agreed border.

A seasoned diplomat, Mr. Axworthy was to visit both countries in an effort to break the deadlock.