Ethiopia withdraws from western Eritrea

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The Independent Online

Ethiopia said it withdrew its forces from parts of Eritrea captured along the western territory after accomplishing its mission.

Ethiopia said it withdrew its forces from parts of Eritrea captured along the western territory after accomplishing its mission.

Ethiopia boasted of having dealt a "humiliating and devastating defeat" that it said left its neighbour begging for peace talks.

It was not immediately clear whether the withdrawal, which came on the rescheduled opening day of new talks in Algiers on the Horn of Africa's 2-year-old border war, would be followed by a pullback from other Eritrean land taken in Ethiopia's 2-week-old offensive.

The announced withdrawal came a day after Ethiopia's warplanes took the attack to Eritrea's capital for the first time in the punishing offensive, shocking Eritreans with a daylight bombing run on a military airstrip just three miles from the half-million resident city of Asmara. The attack wounded two civilians.

No fighting was immediately reported this morning, and Ethiopian government spokeswoman Selome Taddesse said there had been no fighting Monday either.

Eritrea, however, accused Ethiopia of launching an offensive on the now much-harder-fought southern border front Monday.

There has been no fighting in the west for several days.

Ethiopian artillery, infantry and aircraft had pushed deep into western Eritrea early in the offensive, taking the regional capital of Barentu, 40 miles from the border and the region's military command center.

"As the Ethiopian government has reiterated on numerous occasions, it has no interest in occupying sovereign Eritrean territory and, having achieved its goals, it has withdrawn its troops accordingly," Selome said Tuesday.

No, Eritrea's government "has begged to continue the peace process, which it had obstructed so many times in the past out of arrogance and an erroneous belief in its military might," she added.

There was no immediate confirmation of the withdrawal from either Eritrea or independent sources.

Foreign ministers from both sides are expected to participate in indirect peace talks Tuesday in Algeria to find a permanent solution to the border dispute that has cost the two impoverished countries hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin's late arrival Monday in Algiers forced postponement of the talks. Negotiations are to be conducted with the backing of mediators from the United States, European Union and Organization of African Unity.

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