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DATE=2/21/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-245764 TITLE=ETHIOPIA/ERITREAA FIGHTING (L) BYLINE=SCOTT STEARNS DATELINE=NAIROBI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: ETHIOPIAN PLANES HAVE BOMBED THE AIRPORT IN THE ERITREAN CITY OF ASAB. AS CORRESPONDENT SCOTT STEARNS REPORTS, THE ATTACK BREAKS FOUR DAYS OF RELATIVE CALM IN THE BORDER WAR. TEXT: ETHIOPIA SAYS ANTONOV BOMBERS STRUCK THE AIRSTRIP IN ASAB JUST PAST DAWN SUNDAY. GOVERNMENT SPOKESWOMAN SELOME TADESSE SAYS THEY SCORED AT LEAST ONE DIRECT HIT ON THE RUNWAY. BUT ERITREA IS REPORTING ALL 12 BOMBS MISSED THEIR TARGET BECAUSE ERITREAN ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS KEPT THE ANTONOVS HIGH. ASAB HAS BECOME A MAJOR TARGET IN THE LATEST ROUND OF FIGHTING. ETHIOPIAN JETS TUESDAY ATTACKED A WATER PLANT NEAR THE ERITREAN PORT, ABOUT 60-KILOMETERS FROM THE ETHIOPIAN BORDER TOWN OF BURIE. WATER IS A PRIME COMMODITY IN THE DRY DUSTY FLATLANDS OF SOUTH EAST ERITREA. THIS REGION NEAR THE BORDER WITH DJIBOUTI IS ONE OF THE HOTTEST PLACES ON EARTH. KNOCKING OUT ERITREAN WATER RESERVES AND DAMAGING THE AIRSTRIP IN ASAB WOULD BE A MAJOR BLOW AS THE CITY IS DIFFICULT TO RE-SUPPLY BECAUSE THERE IS NO GOOD ROAD FROM THE CAP1TAL, ASMARA. UNLIKE THE MOUNTAINOUS NORTHERN BORDER BETWEEN ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA, THE LOW TERRAIN OF THE BURIE FRONT GIVES ETHIOPIA A BETTER OPPORTUNITY TO CAPITALIZE ON ITS AIR POWER. THERE WERE NO REPORTS OF GROUND FIGHTING ON THE BURIE FRONT (SUNDAY) WHERE THOUSANDS OF TROOPS ARE DUG IN ALONGSIDE TANKS AND HEAVY ARTILLERY. THE BOMBING RUN BREAKS A FOUR-DAY LULL IN THE FIGHTING. EUROPEAN UNION OFFICIALS VISITED ETHIOPIA FRIDAY AND ERITREA SATURDAY, PUSHING AN ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY PLAN TO ARBITRATE THE BORDER DISPUTE. ETHIOPIA HAS ACCEPTED THAT PLAN. ERITREA HAS YET TO RESPOND. ERITREAN TROOPS CAPTURED LAND ACROSS THE BORDER LAST MAY. NOW THEY SAY THEY WANT INTERNATIONAL MONITORS IN THOSE AREAS BEFORE WITHDRAWING THEIR FORCES. ETHIOPIA WANTS THOSE TROOPS OUT AND LOCAL ETHIOPIAN AUTHORITY RESTORED BEFORE FORMAL PEACE TALKS. (SIGNED) NEB/SS/DW/RAE 21-Feb-99 8:33 AM EST (1333 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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