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UN Council joins Annan in condemning Indian peacekeeper's death

Written by: Staff

United Nations, Mar 4 (UNI) Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the powerful 15-member Security Council have castigated Eritrea for threatening the safety of UN staff that led to the death of an Indian peacekeeper.

Lance Corporal Kamble Ramesh Annappa died of a massive heart attack earlier in the week, according to the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).

The council released a statement yesterday registering ''great concern'' over the peacekeeper's death while being shifted to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The powerful UN body described the death as taking place because of ''unacceptable restrictions'' clamped by Eritrea.

On Thursday, Mr Annan expressed sorrow that the peacekeeper had died because of ''inadmissible restrictions imposed by Eritrea''.

Annappa became sick in a buffer zone between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

He was declared dead following a cardiac arrest, after having been taken on a four-hour route to the Ethiopian capital-instead of a shorter flight that could have taken less than an hour. The shorter alternative could not be taken because of restrictions on UN helicopter flights.

The flight bans had ''grave implications'' for the UN officials' safety and should be done away with immediately, the Security Council urged.

Though the UN chief did not blame Eritrea, Mr Annan made it clear that the flight bans delayed Annappa's shifting process by hours.

Eritrea said it could not be blamed for the UN peacekeeper's death. ''To blame Eritrea is unjustifiable. It is a tragic incident.

It is wrong to politicise this,'' news reports quoted presidential adviser Yemane Ghebremeskel as telling reporters. ''It has nothing to do with Eritrea. This is far fetched,'' it added.

''It is pertinent to note that this soldier could have been evacuated to Asmara, Eritrea, in a much shorter time frame since a helicopter was available at the battalion headquarters in Adigrat,'' UNMEE said in a statement yesterday, specifying a 50-minute flight time to the UN hospital in the Ethiopian capital.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a bitter border war between 1998 and 2000 and the Temporary Security Zone now separates the two countries.

The war reported to have killed about 70,000 people. Eritrea has criticised the United Nations for not forcing Ethiopia to accept the 1,000 km border delineated in 2002, awarding Badme, the town that triggered the border conflict, to Eritrea.


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