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Ethiopia Says Attack by Eritreans Foiled

02 February 2007

Ethiopia's government claims it has prevented a bombing attack in the capital, Addis Ababa, orchestrated by the Eritrean government just before a heads of state summit kicked off on Monday, which was attended by more than 35 African heads of state and new U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The summit ended Tuesday, but Ethiopian officals first announced the foiled plot late on Thursday on state media, which showed images of confiscated explosives materials allegedly planted by an Eritrean agent.

Bereket Simon, special advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, says his government discovered the explosives at strategic points throughout the city. He also says they have the agent in custody.

"This was an Eritrean agent ... who was preparing himself to blow mines ... in different sensitive areas. He was having a mission to accomplish. He is in custody," said Bereket. "We have to consult the Ministry of Interior ... then we will issue a follow-up statement."

The Ethiopian claim comes on the heels a scale-down in personnel for the U.N. peacekeeping mission straddling the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, where a shaky peace agreement is maintained. However, the U.N. secretary-general said last week in Brussels that he was concerned about another war flaring up between the two bitter rivals.

Ethiopia often has accused Eritrea of planting bombs in its territory and supporting rebels groups fighting low-level insurgencies against the government.

Eritrean presidential spokesman and special advisor, Yemani Gebremeskel, says the claim is outrageous. "This is another deliberate attempt to fabricate stories to discredit the Eritrean government," he said.

No Eritrean authorities attended the African Union Summit, according to the body's Conflict Management Department's spokesman, Assane Ba.

Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war, but their border was never settled. The two countries fought a bitter territorial war between 1998 and 2000 and U.N. peacekeepers now patrol the border region.

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