BBC News – 2007-09-08 22:35:57
US Gives Stark Warning to Eritrea
Elizabeth Blunt / BBC News
ADDIS ABABA (September 8, 2007) — The US has issued Eritrea with its strongest warning yet over its alleged support for terrorism. A senior US official said the presence of an exiled Somali Islamist leader in Asmara this week was further evidence Eritrea gave sanctuary to terrorists.
The gathering of further intelligence could lead to Eritrea being named as a state sponsor of terrorism – followed by sanctions, the official said. The Eritrean government has accused the US of deliberate distortion.
A full scale war of words is now going on between Eritrea and the United States.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, said the presence of Hassan Dahir Uways at a meeting in Asmara was further evidence that Eritrea provided sanctuary for terrorists.
The Eritrean ministry of information website has just published a 35-point condemnation of US foreign policy accusing Jendayi Frazer herself of deliberate distortion.
Speaking at the end of a visit to neighbouring Ethiopia, Miss Frazer said that Eritrea’s nasty words about the US were not a significant concern.
What had got her government’s attention was Eritrea’s actions to destabilise other countries in the Horn of Africa and, in particular, evidence that they were harbouring terrorists. Miss Frazer said that this was about more than just simply considering Eritrea as a rogue state in the region.
It was quite specifically Eritrea’s relationship with recognized terrorists which could lead to its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
This, in turn, she said would bring a change in the nature of its relationship with the US and in the ability of the US and other countries to provide assistance to Eritrea’s government.
© BBC MMVII
US Moves to Shut Eritrean Mission
(August 13, 2007) — The United States has ordered the closure of Eritrea’s consulate in California, in a sign of worsening diplomatic relations. US embassy officials in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, say the decision is due to a string of restrictions imposed on its embassy. In response, Eritrea has accused the US of an unjust and unfriendly policy.
Relations between the two countries soured after US-backed Ethiopia entered Somalia to fight Islamist forces.
The BBC’s Peter Martell in Asmara says the closure will affect the Eritrean government’s attempt to collect a 2% income tax on Eritrean expatriates in California – an important source of income.
This row is the latest in a series of tit-for-tat measures the countries have imposed on each other. These include Eritrean demands to inspect confidential diplomatic bags against international conventions, as well as imposing visa restrictions – claims rejected by Eritrea.
Warning of new Horn of Africa war
Martin Plaut / BBC News
Eritrea has been sending troops to the border area
War could resume between Ethiopia and Eritrea unless they accept a resolution of their border conflict, a former Horn of Africa UN envoy has warned.
Experts are to meet both countries in the Hague, for what is being described as a last chance for a peaceful resolution of their border dispute.
The two countries have been given until November to agree on their border. Otherwise the Boundary Commission, set up when the war ended in 2000, will demarcate it without their consent.
But the former United Nations special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Kjell Bondevik, told the BBC the positions of Ethiopia and Eritrea were becoming more entrenched.
“After my last visit in the region, which took place in June, I really fear an escalating of the conflict and I will not exclude the possibility of a new war,” Mr Bondevik warned.
For the past six years, some of the world’s senior experts on border disputes have been poring over obscure maps of the Horn of Africa. Their task has been to define just where the border should lie between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
When peace was signed at the end of the 18-month war which killed tens of thousands of people, the two states agreed to put the border dispute to final and binding arbitration.
But when the Boundary Commission, established by the peace treaty decided in April 2002 just where the border should lie, Ethiopia refused to accept its findings.
This was – essentially – because the town of Badme, the ownership of which had sparked off the original conflict, was handed to Eritrea. Despite many meetings, and much arm-twisting by the international community, this position has not altered.
Ethiopia has insisted the two countries discuss the demarcation, to prevent villages from being split in two. Eritrea has been equally adamant that the ruling must be implemented as it stands and that there is nothing to talk about.
In November last year the Boundary Commission, fed up with the lack of progress, gave both parties a year to accept the boundary as the Commission had determined, as they had promised to do. Otherwise they said they would declare the border demarcated, and wash their hands of the whole affair.
The danger is that Ethiopia and Eritrea remain bitter enemies and have forces massed along their one-thousand kilometre border.
Eritrea has increased the number of militia and troops inside the 25km Temporary Security Zone that runs along the border, increasing the possibility of clashes with Ethiopian forces on the southern side of the zone.
At the same time, the number of UN troops patrolling the border has been gradually reduced, making it more difficult for the organisation to monitor the situation.
Experts warn that tension is rising, and believe that if Thursday’s meeting fails to make progress, the border conflict could be re-ignited, with terrible consequences.
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Where Is Osama Bin Laden?
(September 7, 2007) — As Osama bin Laden urges Americans to convert to Islam in a new video released Friday, the al Qaeda leader’s location remains a mystery. But informed sources tell CBS News US intelligence believes Osama bin Laden is hiding out in the Chitral district of northern Pakistan.
A number of reports from human sources, including some alleged sightings, have put him there, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.
None of the reports has been independently confirmed, but there are enough of them to persuade intelligence analysts that it’s his most likely location.
Chitral is a remote, rugged area governed by tribes that will not allow even the Pakistani army to operate there.
“They have a code of hospitality for guests, and they’ve probably also gotten a fair amount of money from bin Laden,” says Daniel Benjamin of the Brookings Institute, who tracked bin Laden during the Clinton administration. He believes bin Laden is surrounded by body guards armed with surface-to-air missiles and good intelligence.
“I think it’s quite likely he has a very good early warning system (and) that there are perimeters set up so people know who’s coming and going in the area that he’s living,” Benjamin said. Before 9/11, bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al Zawahiri always seemed to be at his side. But no longer.
“They’re separated for good reasons,” says Benjamin. “Most countries don’t let their top two people travel together or undertake anything that would be risky together.”
Last year, a US missile strike narrowly missed Zawahiri after the CIA tracked him to a meeting of senior al Qaeda operatives south of Chitral. Al Qaeda seems willing to risk Zawahiri in order to protect bin Laden.
“It seems like they’ve made a decision that bin Laden will have a much higher level of operational security,” Benjamin says. “Zawahiri will take more risks and is probably in a more accessible place.”
So far, it’s working. The only proof US intelligence has that bin Laden is even alive are his own videos.
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