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Sunday, August 19, 2007

US May Place Eritria On Terrorist State List

Eritrea rejects U.S. accusation of terrorism

By Jack Kimball

ASMARA, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Eritrea responded angrily on Saturday to a threat by U.S. Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer to place it on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Frazer said on Friday the United States was considering putting the Red Sea state on the terrorist list for allegedly funnelling weapons and aid to Somali Islamist insurgents battling the American and Ethiopian-backed interim government.

"We have tried our best to act with restraint with Eritrea," Frazer told reporters in Washington. "We cannot tolerate... their support for terror activity, particularly in Somalia."
Asmara said the accusation was baseless.

"We are very, very grateful to Ms. Jendayi Frazer (for) exposing her ill-will towards the Eritrean people," Information Minister Ali Abdu said icily.

A U.N. monitoring group last month accused Eritrea of sending large quantities of weapons to Islamists in Somalia -- a charge Asmara denies.

Violence has flared up in Somalia this month, with regular gun battles between allied Somali-Ethiopian troops and the Islamist fighters they ousted from Mogadishu in December with U.S. backing.

Hundreds of Somalis have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in what some analysts say is a proxy war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

If put on the list, the country, one of the world's poorest, would join Iran, North Korea and Syria in suffering losses of U.S. aid, U.S. opposition to International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans and a ban on arms sales.

Frazer said Eritrea could avoid this if it stopped its activities in Somalia.

Underlining the sour relations between the former allies -- Eritrea was one of only four African countries to back the U.S.-led Iraq invasion -- Washington said this week it was shutting down an Eritrean consulate in Oakland, California.

Washington complained that Asmara kept inspecting its diplomatic pouches and refusing visas for U.S. diplomats.

Eritrea says Washington has shirked its duty to force Ethiopia, the top U.S. counter-terrorism ally in the region, to comply with an international ruling marking its shared border with Ethiopia following a 1998-2000 border war.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is expected to make an official statement to journalists about relations with the United States late on Sunday.

The Rest @ Reuters

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