Eritrea accuses Ethiopia of having 'declared war'

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ASMARA, Nov 21 (Reuters) Eritrea today said arch-foe Ethiopia had ''long since declared war'' on Asmara by refusing to implement a five-year-old border ruling marking their shared frontier.

Analysts and diplomats fear heightened tensions on the Horn of Africa rivals' frontier could erupt into a new conflict seven years after they fought a war that killed some 70,000 people.

''In undermining the values of international agreements and refusing to withdraw from sovereign Eritrean territories, the TPLF regime (Ethiopia) has already launched an aggression against the Eritrean people,'' said an article in the government-run Eritrea Profile newspaper.

''It is significant that the TPLF clique should now declare war or refrain from doing so, because the regime has long since declared war on Eritrea,'' the English-language biweekly newspaper said.

Ethiopia has insisted it has no plans to start a war, and says Eritrea is sponsoring insurgents in Ethiopia and also Somalia. Asmara denies those claims.

Asmara and Addis Ababa have been deadlocked over the 1000-km shared border since an independent boundary commission gave the town of Badme to Eritrea in a 2002 ruling.

Eritrea has accused Ethiopia of plotting to invade the Red Sea state at least four times in the last month -- a claim that Addis Ababa ridicules.

But diplomats and analysts fear conflict could break out after a late November deadline by the commission to set the border on maps and leave the two nations to physically mark it.

In September, the boundary commission brought the two sides together for talks to push forward measures to physically demarcate the border along the line established in 2002, but the talks made no progress.

The United Nations and the United States have urged both nations to show restraint even as an influential think tank warns that war could erupt within weeks if there is no major international push to stop it.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a report earlier this month that Ethiopia and Eritrea had moved more than 100,000 troops each close to the border.

The world body has a 1,700-strong peacekeeper force monitoring a security buffer zone on Eritrea's side of the frontier, which is supposed to be demilitarised.

REUTERS RJ KP1609

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