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Djibouti president says in 'tricky' standoff with Eritrea

Issue 330
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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 9, 2008 — Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh said his army is in a dangerous border stand-off with neighbouring Eritrea's military, according to a release issued Friday.

"There is a hostile action which poses real problems because it is a blatant violation of our territorial integrity, of our borders," the president said in the statement.

"We are now in a rather tricky situation because both armies are facing each other. However we have noted that there, so far, has not been any intention on the part of our neighbours to wage war against us," he said.

Djibouti has accused Eritrean forces of digging trenches on both sides of the border, infringing several hundred metres (yards) on to Djiboutian territory.

Asmara denied the accusation, following which the Arab League's Peace and Security Council held an emergency session, at Djibouti's request, and demanded that a fact-finding mission be despatched to the border.

But Guelleh warned that should international arbitration fail to settle the issue and allow the Eritrean presence to remain, Djibouti would take firm action.

"We will be compelled to defend our country and our national sovereignty, that is my duty," he said.

Djibouti and Eritrea have clashed twice over the border area situated at the southern end of the Red Sea.

In April 1996 they almost went to war after a Djibouti official accused Asmara of shelling the town of Ras Doumeira.

And in 1999, Eritrea accused Djibouti of siding with Asmara's arch-foe Ethiopia while Djibouti accused its neighbour of supporting Djiboutian rebels and having designs on the Ras Doumeira region, which Eritrea denied.

Source: AFP


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