January 16, 2009 / 6:38 AM / 11 years ago

Eritrea rejects UN demand for border pull-back

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Eritrea has rejected a U.N. Security Council demand that it withdraw military forces from its border with Djibouti within five weeks.

A Djiboutian soldier stands behind a heavy machine gun in an undisclosed location along the border with Eritrea, June 15, 2008. REUTERS/Omar Hassan

Djibouti accuses its Horn of Africa neighbour of sending troops across the frontier last June, triggering several days of battles that killed a dozen Djiboutian troops and wounded dozens more. Eritrea denies making any incursions.

“Under strong pressure from self-interested powers, the U.N. Security Council...adopted an ill-considered, unbalanced and unnecessary resolution against Eritrea,” the Foreign Ministry in Asmara said in a statement on Thursday night.

“Any balanced examination of the situation would lead to the conclusion that this measure cannot have been motivated by any genuine considerations of the rule of law.”

Djibouti hosts U.S. and French military bases and is the main route to the sea for Eritrea’s arch-foe and Washington’s main regional ally, Ethiopia. Djibouti also accuses Eritrea of seizing what it says is its territory on the Red Sea coast.

On Wednesday, the resolution approved by all 15 Security Council members praised Djibouti for withdrawing its forces to pre-conflict positions and condemned Eritrea for not doing so.

It demanded Asmara pull back all of its forces to their previous locations within five weeks, but did not say what would happen if Eritrea did not comply.

Asmara accused Security Council members of ignoring what it called breaches of international law by Ethiopia, with which it fought a 1998-2000 border war that killed 70,000 people.

Eritrea says Ethiopia still occupies frontier towns that it was awarded by an independent commission. Addis Ababa denies it.

“Instead of addressing these real breaches of international law, the U.N. Security Council has seen it appropriate to pass a resolution...against Eritrea on a manufactured ‘border dispute’,” the Eritrean government said in its statement.

“Eritrea has not occupied any land that belongs to Djibouti. It obviously cannot accept a resolution that demands the ‘withdrawal of its forces’ from its own territory.”

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