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Annan responds to Eritrean allegations about UN mission

14 May 2004 Calling on Eritrea and Ethiopia to engage constructively with the United Nations mission in the region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today Eritrea's recent verbal attacks on the mission and the restrictions imposed on it could endanger the lives of UN personnel and limit their effectiveness.

"The Secretary-General is dismayed at the recent public attacks made by the Eritrean authorities against the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and its staff, as well as the restrictions imposed on its operations," spokesman Fred Eckhard told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.

UNMEE had investigated each allegation made against its staff, had taken action and had shared the outcomes, where appropriate, with the Government of Eritrea, Mr. Annan's spokesman said.

"However, the tone and scope of the recent unfortunate statements made by the Eritrean authorities can seriously impact on the effectiveness of the Mission in the performance of its mandated tasks, and could also endanger the security of its personnel," Mr. Eckhard said.

The Eritrean Commission for Coordination with the Peacekeeping Mission alleged earlier this month that an UNMEE helicopter transported a "fugitive wanted for security reasons" from Senafe, Eritrea, in the Temporary Security Zone, to Adigrat in Ethiopia. UNMEE said it was investigating the charge.

Because UNMEE had taken no action to "clean up its activities" it had become a danger to the peace and stability of the people and Government of Eritrea, the Commission said.

The Secretary-General hoped that both parties, and in particular the Government of Eritrea, would allow UNMEE the indispensable freedom of movement and the necessary cooperation to carry out the mandate given it by the Algiers Agreements of December 2000 and the relevant Security Council resolutions, Mr. Eckhard said.



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