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Security Council urges Ethiopia and Eritrea to refrain from any threat to use force

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. Security Council urged Ethiopia and Eritrea to refrain from threatening to use force against each other and to resolve their border dispute peacefully.

In a statement approved late Wednesday by consensus, the council said it stands ready "to assist the parties to overcome the current stalemate, taking into account the interests and concerns of both parties."

Eritrea and Ethiopia have been feuding over their border since Eritrea gained independence from the Addis Ababa government in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.

A 1,700-strong U.N. force has been monitoring a 15-mile (24-kilometer) wide, 620-mile (1,000-kilometer) long buffer zone between the Horn of Africa neighbors under a December 2000 peace agreement that ended a 2 1/2-year border war.

Tensions between the two countries remain high because of Ethiopia's refusal to accept the boundary commission's 2002 ruling on the border demarcation which awarded the key town of Badme to Eritrea.

The council said Eritrea's continued "obstructions" of the U.N. peacekeeping force have reached a level that undermines the basis for the U.N. mission, known as UNMEE.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ordered the temporary redeployment of U.N. peacekeepers in Eritrea on Feb. 11 after its government restricted fuel supplies to the force and its food supplies were briefly halted.

"The Security Council will, in the light of consultations with the parties, decide on the terms of a future U.N. engagement and on the future of UNMEE," said the statement read by the current council president, South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo.

It reiterated that the two countries have the primary responsibility for achieving a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the border dispute.

"The Security Council urges both sides to show maximum restraint and to refrain from any threat or use of force against each other and calls upon the parties to address forthwith the unresolved issues in accordance with the commitments made in the Algiers agreements" signed in December 2000, the statement said.

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