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Ethiopia Accuses Eritrea of Push to War

08 October 2007

Ethiopia's president is urging the country's parliament to approve money for a military buildup in preparation for a possible war with neighboring Eritrea. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports the remarks came during a speech to a joint session of parliament.

Ethiopian President Girma Woldegiorgis accuses Eritrea of rejecting peace overtures and adding thousands of conscripts to its army, pushing the Horn of Africa neighbors back towards war. The two countries fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that claimed as many as 100,000 lives.

In what is likely to be his farewell speech to parliament, Mr. Girma said has consistently expressed its intention to instigate war with Ethiopia. "Indeed, the government of Eritrea is continuing to work day and night to destabilize our country," he said. "It is engaged in training and deploying disgruntled terrorist forces."

Mr. Girma said Ethiopia has little choice but to respond with its own military buildup. He called for parliament to quickly authorize big increases in military spending.

"The government will present to the House a number of other bills specifically aimed at enhancing the capacity of our security forces," said Mr. Girma. "We are confident that these major proclamations will be adopted by the esteemed House."

Tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea have increased recently, with the rivals backing opposing factions in Somalia. The United States has accused Eritrea of aiding Islamist fighters in Somalia, and threatened to place Eritrea on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Eritrea, whose population is only a little more than five percent of Ethiopia's, strongly denies it is trying to instigate war, and has rejected U.S. charges that it harbors terrorists and funnels weapons to Islamist fighters in Somalia. In an interview with the New York Times last month, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki called the allegations 'a witch hunt'.

The last war between Ethiopia and Eritrea ended with both sides agreeing to accept an independent boundary commission's ruling on the exact location of the 1,000-kilometer border. But Ethiopia has found fault with the ruling, and the commission's term is due to expire next month if no progress is made.

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