Ethiopia says may call off Eritrea border pact

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ADDIS ABABA, Sep 25 (Reuters) Ethiopia said today it may terminate the pact ending its border war with Eritrea, accusing its smaller neighbour of breaching the deal on several fronts including coordinating ''terrorist activity''.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin in a letter to his Eritrean counterpart said Addis Ababa would be forced ''to consider its peaceful and legal options under international law'' if Eritrea continued.

Those options include terminating the pact or suspending part or all of it, Mesfin wrote.

Relations between the two Horn of Africa nations are at their lowest since a 1998-2000 border war killed 70,000 people, which ended with an agreement in Algiers in late 2000.

Earlier this month, Ethiopia said its soldiers were just metres apart from Eritrean soldiers who had moved into what is supposed to be a neutral buffer zone, sparking fear of a renewed conflict.

The Algiers pact said both sides would have to abide by an independent ruling over the 1,000-km frontier, which has never been implemented since Ethiopia initially rejected it when it was made in April 2002.

Eritrean officials had no immediate comment, but earlier this month accused Ethiopia of sinking talks at The Hague to push the deal forward.

In his letter, Seyoum accused Eritrea of occupying a 25-km buffer zone patrolled by peacekeepers from the UN Mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), which has drawn condemnation from the UN Security Council.

The letter was copied to the United Nations, European Union the African Union and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

''Eritrea has also made repeated public threats against Ethiopia. It has imposed severe restrictions on UNMEE. Eritrea has also been coordinating the activities of terrorist groups to destabilize the region,'' Seyoum wrote.

Eritrea backed Somali Islamists when they fought Somalia's Ethiopian-backed government, and is hosting opposition figures who have vowed to fight Ethiopian troops backing the Somali government.

Ethiopia has repeatedly accused Eritrea of harbouring what it calls ''terrorists'', including Somali hardline Islamist Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and other rebel groups opposing Addis Ababa.

Asmara denies it supports such groups.

REUTERS AE RAI2354

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