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Ethiopia Plans to Seek Tougher UN Sanctions Against Eritrea

Ethiopia will push for stronger United Nations sanctions on Eritrea’s mining industry in an attempt to pressure its government to stop supporting rebels, said State Minister of Foreign Affairs Berhane Gebre Kristos.

Ethiopia wants tougher sanctions than those passed at the UN Security Council last year that advised mining firms to exercise greater “vigilance” when working in the Horn of Africa nation, he said in an interview in Addis Ababa, the capital, today.

Mining and a tax on remittances “will be the major targets with more teeth,” Berhane said. Further measures to restrict political and military leaders are also sought, he said.

Eritrea, with a $2.1 billion economy, has attracted investment from companies including Canada’s Nevsun Resources Ltd. An arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on some leaders was imposed by the UN in 2009 for supporting Somalia rebel group al-Shabaab. The Asmara-based government calls the sanctions “unjustifiable” and denies supporting al-Shabaab or other rebel groups within Ethiopia.

Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia after a 1993 referendum. The two countries fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that killed 70,000 people, according to the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

It’s “not in Ethiopia’s interests” to return to hostilities, Berhane said. “Eritrea does not have the capability to go to fully-fledged war.”

Ethiopia wants the sanctions to change the government’s behavior, rather than topple President Isaias Afewerki’s administration, said Berhane. “It is up to the Eritrean people to decide what kind of government it wants,” he said.

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