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» 10.12.2010 - Djibouti sees Eritrea President as "lunatic"
» 26.05.2010 - Eritrea "intimidates emigrants into paying tax"
» 23.04.2010 - Eritrea desperate to undo UN sanctions
» 04.01.2010 - Eritrea was provoked - government
» 11.12.2009 - 30 Christian women arrested in Eritrea
» 21.10.2009 - Eritrea is the bottom last in Press Freedom Index 2009
» 10.08.2009 - Eritrea dismiss insurgents support allegations as smear campaign
» 14.07.2009 - Eritrea not backing militancy – Presidency

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Eritrea still keeps 2 UN employees detained

afrol News, 23 February - Eritrean authorities are still detaining two locally recruited staff from the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), a UN official said today. But they have released 25 others that were arrested last week. Eritrean authorities have been increasingly hostile towards the UN after peacekeepers proved unable to demark the border with Ethiopia after Addis Ababa withdrew its support to that border.

"During the last week, a total number of 27 locally recruited UNMEE staff was arrested by the Eritrean authorities for varying durations. As of today, two national staff members have not reported for duty," said Deputy Spokesperson Musi Khumalo of the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) from the Eritrean capital Asmara.

The UN has demanded the release of all its 27 local staff, but Eritrean authorities only have been willing to free 25 of the UN's employees. Also local staff of several embassies and international organisations were suddenly arrested last week, causing protests from several Western governments that already are losing their patience with Asmara.

The Asmara government so far even has declined to give an official explanation to the large number of detentions. According to unofficial reports from the Eritrean capital, the arrests are part of a national military rehearsal, where a large number of Eritreans have been mobilised. Uncommon in other countries, this is also including nationals working at foreign representations.

The sudden mobilisation of Eritrean staff at foreign embassies and at the UN however is understood as a protest act or a simple provocation by diplomats in the country. The action is most likely to be yet another attempt to put pressure on the UN to implement the demarcation of the border with Ethiopia despite Ethiopian unwillingness to participate in that process.

Eritrea already has launched a large number of provocative acts against the UN and its peacekeepers. This includes calling the peacekeepers a threat to regional peace and stability - which almost caused a withdrawal of UNMEE - and severe limitations on the peacekeepers' freedom of movement. During the last few months, Eritrea has banned UNMEE helicopter flights, imposed restrictions on the movement of patrols and expelled the UN's North American and European staff.

These actions by the Eritrean government have caused an increased tension at the border with Ethiopia as Addis Ababa fears Eritrea may be preparing for new warfare. UNMEE spokesman Khumalo also today reported that the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) between Ethiopia and Eritrea "remains tense" and that Eritrea's ban on the UN's mission's helicopter flights was still in place.

Since the detention of local UN staff in Asmara, the peacekeepers' head offices have kept a low profile, probably in an attempt to avoid revenge actions against its detained employees. UNMEE spokesmen have been notably modest in their protests and declarations.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bitter border war between 1998 and 2000 and the TSZ now separates the two countries. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a recent report to the UN Security Council, offered a number of options for coping with the current stalemate, ranging from redeployment to total withdrawal of UNMEE. A withdrawal is steadily becoming a more realistic option, UN officials hold.

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