January 9, 2009 / 3:52 PM / 10 years ago

Ethiopia dismisses threat against oil explorers

Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, September 27, 2007. REUTERS/Chip East

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian rebels who warned oil explorers against working in their region are issuing empty threats that will not deter the government from developing their homeland, a senior Ethiopian official said on Friday.

This week the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) told Malaysia’s Petronas it would not allow any activities in the country’s remote east, and said working there would make the firm an accomplice in war crimes by the Ethiopian military.

The government rejects accusations of abuses during its counter-insurgency operations in Ogaden, which borders Somalia.

“Such empty threats by the terrorist ONLF group will not deter the government from continuing development activities in the region,” Bereket Simon, special adviser to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told Reuters.

“Such threats, being aired by ONLF supporters in London, are just another example of their reckless behaviour.”

Petronas, the Malaysian state-owned company, is one of more than a dozen international explorers hunting for oil and gas deposits in different parts of the huge Horn of Africa country.

The separatist rebels have long objected to Addis Ababa inviting foreign energy firms to work in their arid homeland.

In April 2007, ONLF fighters killed 74 people in a raid on an Ogaden oil exploration field run by a subsidiary of Sinopec, China’s biggest refiner and petrochemicals producer.

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