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Eritrea suspends its membership in IGAD over Somalia


April 22, 2007 (ASMARA) — Eritrea said on Sunday it had suspended its membership in an east African regional body after a rift with arch-foe Ethiopia at a meeting on Somalia this month threatened to divide the region.

The withdrawal from the seven-member Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was the latest sign of deteriorating relations between Asmara and regional countries over Somalia where hundreds died in fighting this week.

"It’s a temporary withdrawal. We feel that it’s not responsible to stay in that organisation when decisions are being made that are not legally or morally acceptable," Information Minister Ali Abdu told Reuters.

"The organisation is being manipulated by external forces," he added. Ali did not name those forces, but Eritrea has pointed at the United States for its policies in the Horn of Africa.

A statement on the government Web site, shabait.com, added that the move was made after "a number of repeated and irresponsible resolutions that undermine regional peace and security have been adopted in the guise of IGAD."

A meeting of IGAD foreign ministers two weeks ago in Kenya became a forum for the festering feud between Ethiopia and Eritrea, still bitter over their 1998-2000 border war and locked in what many see as a proxy war in Somalia.

A communique after the meeting expressed appreciation to Ethiopia "for all the sacrifices it has made to promote the common position of IGAD," a reference diplomats said was to Ethiopia’s military backing for the Somali government.

It also condemned "all forces that undermine (the Somali) government and attempt to prevent it from carrying out its responsibilities."

Eritrea was not named as one of those forces, but Somalia and ally Ethiopia accuse Asmara of undermining the interim government by giving aid to insurgents involved in some of the worst fighting in Mogadishu in 15 years.

Eritrea blames the United States and Ethiopia for "irresponsible" interference in Somali affairs after Addis Ababa and Somali government troops ousted Islamists in a war over the New year.

Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea are the countries which make up the east African bloc.


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