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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

ERITREA: UNMEE asked to close information centres

NAIROBI, 25 July 2003 (IRIN) - The UN’s Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) says it has been asked by the Eritrean government to close down its two outreach centres in the country, although for the moment they are still open.

According to UNMEE, whose 4,200 strong force keeps the peace between both countries, the Eritrean authorities said the two information centres, in Asmara and Barentu, were “unnecessary”.

UNMEE spokeswoman Gail Bindley Taylor Sainte told a weekly press briefing on Thursday that hundreds of people a week, including schoolchildren, used the centres to find out about the ongoing peace process.

“It was a documentation centre where people can find out more about anything that they would like to find out about the UN in general, and for us here the peace process in particular,” Sainte said.

“We are very concerned,” she added. “We set these centres up for the benefit of the people in the area.”

Police guards, originally placed outside the outreach centre in Barentu in the west of the country, have now also been placed outside the centre in the capital Asmara.

Sainte that the guards were preventing people from going into the centres. "We have not closed the centres, but if the centres are not patronised then we will be forced to close the centres," she added, saying that UNMEE was "saddened" by the move.

UNMEE head Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Special Representative to the Secretary General, has met key Eritrean officials to try and resolve the issue.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict



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