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Eritrea, Italy In Tit-For-Tat Diplomatic Fallout

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By Somalilandtimes network

By Ed Harris

ASMARA, Mar 9, 2006 (Reuters) - Eritrea has expelled a top Italian envoy to Asmara and Italy has responded in kind, an Eritrean official said on Thursday.

Eritrea expelled Italian diplomat Ludovico Serra from Eritrea on Monday.

"All I can say is that he has breached the law and denigrated the dignity of the country," said Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu.

Ali refused to elaborate but confirmed Italy had expelled an Eritrean diplomat in response.

The Italian news agency ANSA said Serra was detained at the port city of Massawa where he went to look into the plight of some Italians who had property seized in the city.

Serra's expulsion is not the first of Italians from Eritrea.

In 2001, Africa's youngest country ejected Italian Ambassador Antonio Bandini, who led a European diplomatic protest against an Eritrean political crackdown.

More recently, in July 2005, Italy withdrew its military police from the U.N. Mission in the capital, Asmara, after Eritrea imposed restrictions on the Italian carabinieri.

In February this year, Eritrea asked six Italian charities to leave the country, saying they had not met the requirements of a 2005 law on non-governmental organizations.

The two countries have considerable personal and cultural links stemming back to the 19th century, when Eritrea was an Italian colony.

"This will definitely not have any impact on the good relations between the two countries," Ali said of the expulsions.


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