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DATE=2/15/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-245548 TITLE=ETHIOPIA / ERITREA FRONT (L) BYLINE=SCOTT STEARNS DATELINE=AYAY, ETHIOPIA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: ETHIOPIA IS REINFORCING POSITIONS ALONG ITS NORTHERN BORDER AFTER MORE THAN ONE-WEEK OF FIGHTING WITH NEIGHBORING ERITREA. CORRESPONDENT SCOTT STEARNS VISITED THE FRONT, AND FILED THIS REPORT. TEXT: FROM A LINE OF TRENCHES CUT INTO THE ROCK ABOVE THE BADAME PLAIN, ETHIOPIAN TROOPS STOCKPILE MORTARS AND ROCKET-PROPELLED GRENADES FOR POSSIBLE USE AGAINST ERITREAN ADVERSARIES IN TRENCHES LESS THAN 300-METERS AWAY. ETHIOPIA REGAINED THIS GROUND AFTER PUSHING NORTH FROM THE VILLAGE OF AYAY, DRIVING ERITREANS BACK OVER A DUSTY RIDGE AND INTO THE VILLAGE OF GEZASHARIF. WHILE ETHIOPIA CLAIMS CONTROL OF THE LOW GROUND ON THE GEZAGELASSE FRONT, ERITREANS FIELD GUNS STILL COMMAND THE STRATEGIC RIDGE PROTECTING THE ERITREAN-HELD TOWN OF BADAME. ERITREAN TROOPS CAPTURED THIS PLAIN LAST MAY, AT THE START OF THE BORDER WAR, CLAIMING THE LAND IS RIGHTFULLY ERITREAN. THOUSANDS OF ETHIOPIANS FLED. A FARMER, BERHANE ASFAHA GEBRE MICHAEL, STAYED BEHIND. /// BERHANE ACT - FADE UNDER /// WHEN THE ERITREANS FIRST CAME, MR. BERHANE SAYS THEY PROMISED TO NOT ATTACK LOCAL CIVILIANS, SAYING THEY WERE OUT TO DESTROY ONLY THE ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT. THEN, ABOUT ONE-MONTH AGO, MR. BERHANE SAYS THE FIRST ERITREAN SOLDIERS WERE WITHDRAWN AND OTHER TROOPS CAME WHO STOLE FROM THE PEOPLE AND THREATENED THEM. MANY CIVILIANS SAY THEY WERE NOT WILLING TO LEAVE LAND THEY HAD PLANTED FOR GENERATIONS. AND THEY SAY HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO COOPERATE WITH ERITREAN OCCUPATION. /// TESFU ACT - FADE UNDER /// ANOTHER FARMER, TESFU GEBREZEGIHER ABRAHA, SAYS IT WAS THE RAINY SEASON, SO WE HAD TO STAY AND TEND OUR CROPS. THE WOMEN LEFT, MR. TESFU SAYS, BUT THE MEN STAYED BEHIND UNDER ERITREAN RULE BECAUSE IT IS OUR LAND. WITH ETHIOPIAN TROOPS REGAINING CONTROL OF THE GEZAGELASSE PLAIN, FARMER YEMANE GIDEY SILE PSION SAYS HE HOPES HIS CHILDREN CAN GO BACK TO SCHOOL NOW AND HIS FAMILY CAN RETURN TO THEIR HOME. /// YEMANE ACT - FADE UNDER /// MR. YEMANE SAYS NOW THAT THE AREA IS AGAIN UNDER ETHIOPIAN CONTROL, HE HOPES PEOPLE HERE CAN RE-ESTABLISH THEIR LOCAL GOVERNMENT. ETHIOPIA WANTS ITS AUTHORITY IN ALL DISPUTED AREAS REINSTATED AND ERITREAN TROOPS THERE WITHDRAWN BEFORE THE START OF ANY PEACE TALKS. ERITREA SAYS THERE MUST BE INTERNATIONAL MONITORS IN THESE HILLS BEFORE IT WILL PULL OUT ITS TROOPS AND PUT ITS BORDER CLAIMS TO ARBITRATION. (SIGNED) NEB/SKS/JWH/RAE 15-Feb-99 9:39 AM EST (1439 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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