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Ethiopia willing to pull troops from Eritrea border - UN

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Dec 1, 2005 (ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopia has indicated willingness to comply with a U.N. resolution demanding it and neighboring Eritrea reverse a military buildup on their shared border, a senior U.N. official said Thursday.

Western diplomats estimate 380,000 troops are entrenched along the border and thousands of militia are also armed on both sides.

Details of the military pull out have not been worked out, said Major General Rajender Singh, commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in the region, but he added he is "hopeful some positive response will come."

"I have had some discussions with the authorities regarding the pull back of additional troops they have brought up to the border," Singh said. "As far as Ethiopia is concerned, they have indicated they are willing."

"This is very positive," said Singh, whose 3,285 troops and military observers monitor the 1,000 kilometer border.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war, but the border between the two was never formally demarcated. The border war erupted in 1998 and has claimed tens of thousands of lives while costing both countries an estimated $1 million a day.

A December 2000 peace agreement provided for an independent commission to rule on the position of the disputed border while U.N. peacekeepers patrolled a 24 kilometer buffer zone. But Ethiopia refused to accept the panel’s April 2002 decision, which awarded the town of Badme to Eritrea.

(AP/ST)

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