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Border stable despite restrictions on peacekeepers, says UN

The situation along the common border between Ethiopia and Eritrea is militarily stable but restrictions on United Nations peacekeepers remain, a spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), said on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Eritrea banned all UN helicopters from flying in Eritrean airspace, initially prompting fears that the Red Sea state was trying to hide troop movements as preparation for another war.

In recent weeks, Eritrea has also placed restrictions on ground patrols especially after dusk.

"Despite these restrictions, the general situation in the areas currently covered by UNMEE troops... remains militarily stable," Gail Bindley-Taylor-Sainte told the weekly UNMEE briefing for journalists in Asmara.

UNMEE figures show the number of ground patrols had increased by roughly 30 percent to compensate for the loss of air patrols, but Sainte said UNMEE was monitoring just 40 percent of the buffer zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

However, Sainte said UNMEE had requested, but not received, permission for urgent medical evacuations by helicopter on two separate occasions.

"Both India and Jordan have expressed concern about the safety and security of their peacekeepers here," she said, adding that the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had appealed to both countries for time to resolve the situation.

"It would be very serious for us if both India and Jordan withdrew," she said.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a two and half-year border war that ended after the Algiers Agreement, signed in December 2000. The deal provided for an independent commission to rule on the position of their disputed border.

However, disagreement arose over the decision issued in April 2002 by the boundary Commission.

Last week, Eritrea downplayed the significance of restricting UN helicopters. Yemane Ghebremeskel, a presidential adviser in Eritrea, said instead Ethiopia had "violated the Algiers Agreement flagrantly and repeatedly".

"If anything Eritrea has shown the maximum patience, the maximum restraint so far," he added. "We feel both Ethiopia and the [UN] Security Council have violated the agreement."

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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