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DATE=4/10/99 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT NUMBER=2-247880 TITLE=ERITREA PRESIDENT (L ONLY) BYLINE=SCOTT STEARNS DATELINE=ASMARA CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: ERITREA'S PRESIDENT SAYS THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST PUT MORE PRESSURE ON ETHIOPIA TO END THEIR BORDER WAR. AS V-O-A'S SCOTT STEARNS REPORTS, BOTH SIDES HAVE AGREED TO A REGIONAL PEACE PLAN, BUT THERE IS STILL NO PEACE. TEXT: UNDER THE AGREEMENT, ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA WOULD BOTH PULL BACK THEIR TROOPS, WITH INTERNATIONAL MONITORS CONTROLLING DISPUTED AREAS, WHILE THE BORDER COMMISSION DRAWS UP A NEW MAP. ERITREAN PRESIDENT ISAIAS ASEWORKI SAYS HE IS READY TO GO AHEAD WITH THE ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY PLAN, WITHDRAWING HIS TROOPS AT THE SAME TIME AS ETHIOPIA. IN AN INTERVIEW WITH VOA, PRESIDENT ISAIAS SAYS IT IS TIME THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY PUTS PRESSURE ON THE O-A-U AND ETHIOPIA TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THIS PLAN INSTEAD OF WAITING FOR MORE FIGHTING. ///FIRST ACT/// THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS A RESPONSIBILITY IN THIS REGARD IN MY OPINION. WHAT EXACTLY CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY? WE HAVE ACCEPTED THE FRAMEWORK. YOU HAVE BEEN INSISTING THAT WE ACCEPT THE FRAMEWORK. THERE ARE NO EXCUSES NOW FOR DELAYING THE IMPLEMENTATION. WHAT EXACTLY IS THE O-A-U DOING? THE O-A-U DOES NOT HAVE ANY EXCUSE FOR DELAY. ///END ACT THE O-A-U PLAN HAS BEEN CONTENTIOUS FROM THE START. ETHIOPIA ACCEPTED IT QUICKLY. ERITREA DELAYED, SAYING IT HAD CONCERNS ABOUT WHAT AREAS ARE IN DISPUTE. ETHIOPIA ACCUSED ERITREA OF STALLING IN HOPES OF KEEPING GROUND IT SAYS ERITREA CAPTURED BY INVADING ETHIOPIA. PRESIDENT ISAIAS SAYS ETHIOPIA HAS USED THE O-A-U PLAN AS A PUBLIC RELATIONS EXERCISE, WITH NO REAL INTENTION OF FOLLOWING THROUGH ON TROOP WITHDRAWAL. ///SECOND ACT/// THE ACCEPTANCE OF ETHIOPIA TO THE FRAMEWORK IS A P-R EXERCISE. THEY HAD THEIR DOUBTS. THEY WERE NOT SURE WHETHER TO ACCEPT IT OR NOT. WHEN THEY FELT THAT WE HAD VERY STRONG RESERVATIONS TOWARD THE FRAMEWORK THEY SAID THIS IS THE TIME TO USE THIS AS P-R. LET'S ACCEPT IT. LET'S WIN THE DIPLOMATIC BATTLE THAT WILL WEAKEN THE POSITION OF THE ERITREAN GOVERNMENT. ///END ACT/// ETHIOPIA WON MOST OF THE EARLY DIPLOMATIC BATTLES, REINFORCING TROOPS AT THE FRONT AMIDST WARNINGS THAT ITS PATIENCE HAD LIMITS. WHEN FIGHTING STARTED AGAIN EARLIER THIS YEAR, ETHIOPIA SAID IT COULD NOT ALLOW ITSELF TO CONTINUE TO BE OCCUPIED BY ERITREA. ERITREA FINALLY ACCEPTED THE O-A-U PLAN DAYS AFTER LOSING THE BORDER TOWN OF BADAME. THEN, ETHIOPIA LOST A MAJOR BATTLE ON THE CENTRAL TSORONA FRONT. PRESIDENT ISAIAS SAYS ETHIOPIA MISCALCULATED AT TSORONA, COMING UP WITH NEW PRE-CONDITIONS TO TORPEDO THE PEACE PROCESS WHILE TRYING TO PUSH AHEAD MILITARILY. ///THIRD ACT/// WHEN WE ACCEPTED THIS, THEY CAME UP WITH A NUMBER OF PRECONDITIONS TRYING TO MAKE THE EXERCISE FUTILE. BUT THAT WAS WITH THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE TSORONA FRONT WOULD BE A BREAKTHROUGH AND THE MILITARY GAIN WOULD PROBE THEM RIGHT ULTIMATELY. NOW IT IS VERY DIFFICULT BECAUSE THAT ASSUMPTION HAS FAILED. ///END ACT/// ETHIOPIA SAYS ERITREA SHOULD WITHDRAW FROM DISPUTED AREAS FIRST, ALLOWING FOR THE RESTORATION OF ETHIOPIAN LOCAL AUTHORITY. ERITREA WANTS THE PULLBACK TO BE SIMULTANEOUS. PRESIDENT ISAIAS SAYS CASUALTIES AT TSORONA AND IN FIGHTING AROUND BADAME HAS MADE ETHIOPIA'S T-P-L-F LEADERSHIP RELUCTANT TO IMPLEMENT THE O-A-U PLAN BECAUSE PRESIDENT ISAIAS BELIEVES ETHIOPIA INTENDS TO CONTINUE THE FIGHT. ///FOURTH ACT/// THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FRAMEWORK IS A BITTER PILL FOR THE T-P-L-F TO ACCEPT AT THIS MOMENT. THEY HAVE LOST MORE THAN 100 TANKS, THE BEST OF THEIR TANKS. THEY'VE LOST THE BEST OF THEIR CREWS. THE MONEY SPENT ON THE AMMUNITION IS TOO MUCH. IT IS BEYOND ANYONE'S IMAGINATION. THE STRESS -- THE FINANCIAL STRESS, THE ECONOMIC STRESS -- ON THE GOVERNMENT IS TREMENDOUS. ///END ACT/// ETHIOPIAN OFFICIALS SAY IT IS ECONOMIC STRESS ON ERITREA'S GOVERNMENT THAT WILL ULTIMATELY DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF THE WAR. WITH MORE THAN 55-MILLION PEOPLE AND A SUBSTANTIALLY LARGER ECONOMY, ETHIOPIA BELIEVES IT IS SIMPLY A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE ERITREA'S POPULATION OF THREE-MILLION MOVES AGAINST PRESIDENT ISAIAS. IN ELEVEN MONTHS OF WAR, BOTH COUNTRIES APPEAR TO HAVE RALLIED AROUND THEIR LEADERS WITH MONEY AND RECRUITMENT TO THE FRONT, HOPING THE OTHER SIDE FALLS APART FIRST. (SIGNED) NEB/SS/DW/GE 10-Apr-99 8:44 AM EDT (1244 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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