UN calls for rights probe in Ethiopia's Ogaden

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ADDIS ABABA, Sep 20 (Reuters) The United Nations wants an independent investigation into reports of human rights abuses in Ethiopia's troubled Ogaden region, a report by a fact-finding mission to the area said.

The UN group toured the predominantly Somali region, which has seen vicious fighting between Ethiopian government forces and separatist rebels, earlier this month.

The team said it had received ''reports and direct accounts of serious violations of human rights, including substantive protection concerns for the civilian population''. But it also said it needed independent probes.

The report, released yesterday, also made a number of recommendations to improve the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region.

A source close to the UN team told Reuters the Ethiopian government had agreed to accept all the humanitarian recommendations, and both Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Addisu Legesse and Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin had seen the report.

Humanitarian recommendations included a call for access to ''areas of concern'' for aid agencies.

Last month, aid groups Medecins Sans Frontiers and the International Committee for the Red Cross accused the Ethiopian government of denying humanitarian organisations access to the region.

The UN also recommended the government allow commercial food to enter the region ''in sufficient quantity to stabilize the food security situation, and resumption of livestock export trade should be facilitated in the areas of military operation''.

REUTERS SZ SSC1240

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