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African states condemn Djibouti-Eritrea border skirmishes
ADDIS ABABA, 14 June 2008 - Six member states of an east African bloc Saturday condemned a recent attack by Eritrean troops on Djiboutian forces over a contested area which could fuel fresh unrest in a volatile region.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) said it was "seriously concerned" about the situation following Tuesday's attack.
The member nations -- Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan -- "condemned the action by Eritrean troops that led to loss of lives and injury," in a joint statement after a summit in Addis Ababa.
They "called upon the parties, in particular the Government of Eritrea, to heed the call for restraint by the United Nations, the African Union and the league of Arab States and to receive fact finding mission to ascertain the situation on the ground."
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, the outgoing head of IGAD, said: "The use of force in resolving disputes is both unworkable and unsustainable. I therefore wish to urge the sister states of Djibouti and Eritrea to exercise restraint and to resolve the dispute amicably through dialogue."
The UN Security Council on Thursday condemned Asmara for Tuesday's border raids against Djibouti, the first since the two countries deployed troops along their frontier.
Djibouti said the rival forces opened fire after some their number deserted and the Eritreans insisted that they be handed over.
The UN Security Council "condemns Eritrea's military action against Djibouti in Ras Doumeira and Doumeira Island," read a UN declaration, adopted unanimously.
Ras Doumeira, in northern Djibouti, is a strategic promontory overlooking the Red Sea.
EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel meanwhile sounded a warning note to Eritrea, which pulled out of the bloc in April last year.
"The region cannot afford an isolated Eritrea," Michel said. "And Eritrea cannot afford to isolate itself from its neighbours of the Horn. This is the message I intend to convey to (the Eritrean president) when I meet him tomorrow in Asmara."
The IGAD summit also expressed concern over the escalated fighting in Somalia which has further worsened the humanitarian crisis and launched an appeal to government forces and Islamist rebels to take steps to protect civilians.
It also deplored "the persistent rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law," in a joint statement, and stressed the need for offenders to be brought to book.
Experts fear that the number of people in Somalia requiring food aid later this year could reach a total of 3.5 million -- nearly half the population.
Somalia has been wracked by violence since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre led to a bloody power struggle that has defied numerous bids to restore stability.