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Without explanation, Eritrea maintains restrictions on UN peacekeeper helicopters

12 October 2005 As helicopters of the United Nations peacekeeping mission remained grounded in Eritrea for the eighth straight day, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General today said a meeting with a senior Eritrean official had shed no light on why the flight ban was imposed or when it might be lifted.

The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) said its chief, Special Representative Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, met with Colonel Zecarias Ogabagader, the Eritrean official who is the main contact for the mission, but received no clarification of the situation.

With the helicopters grounded on the Eritrean side of the Temporary Security Zone between Eritrea and Ethiopia, two countries which fought a two-year border war, UNMEE Force Commander General Rajinder Singh said yesterday that he was considering closing two outlying posts, Bada and Fawlina, since troops there would need helicopter evacuation in the event of an emergency.

He made clear today that if the situation continued, he would not rule out the possibility of closing even more outlying posts.

In this regard, the risky operations to remove landmines were suspended until further notice, UNMEE said, but contractors for route clearance and integrated demining operations were continuing reconnaissance exercises, training, reviewing standard operating procedures and technical safety standards, and refurbishing equipment.



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