ASMARA, Nov 3 (Reuters) Eritrea today accused Ethiopia for the third time this week of planning an invasion amid spiralling tensions between the two Horn of Africa neighbours.
Escalating rhetoric from Addis Ababa and Asmara has fuelled fears of renewed conflict seven years after the end of a war over their border that cost some 70,000 lives.
''Defecting Ethiopian soldiers who arrived in Eritrea recently disclosed that the regime is preparing to launch another war against Eritrea,'' said a statement in the state-run Eritrea Profile newspaper.
''They also pointed out that the regime is conducting Secret meetings for Tigrayan Army (Ethiopian army) commanders on the preparations for the war,'' the bi-weekly paper said.
Ethiopia has called the allegations of a planned invasion as ''absurd'' and a ''fabrication.'' The two countries have been locked in a bitter border dispute since an independent boundary commission awarded Eritrea the town of Badme in a 2002 ruling.
Ethiopia initially rejected that decision, saying it wanted more talks. Now Addis Ababa says it unconditionally accepts the ruling, but still wants more discussion on implementation.
Frustrated by the lack of progress, the commission said last November that it was giving the two countries one more year to mark the frontier physically, or it would set the boundaries on maps and let them stand.
Ethiopia has threatened to pull out of the peace agreement ending the 1998-2000 war based on what it says were repeated violations by Eritrea. Asmara, in turn, accuses Addis Ababa of violating the pact.
REUTERS SKB AS1815