By JUSTIN BERGMAN
The Associated Press
Monday, July 30, 2007; 7:18 PM
UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council said Monday the lack of progress on resolving the divisive border issue between Ethiopia and Eritrea remained a cause of "deep concern" and called on both countries to immediately withdraw their troops from the frontier.
The 15-member body voted unanimously to extend the 1,700-member peacekeeping mission in the tense buffer zone between the countries for another six months.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 following a 30-year guerrilla war, but the border between the countries was never officially demarcated. Another war broke out from 1998-2000, killing tens of thousands, and tensions have occasionally flared since then.
In an apparent breakthrough last month, Ethiopia agreed to accept an international boundary commission's ruling on the border dispute, which awarded the key town of Badme to Eritrea. But Eritrea dismissed the move, saying Ethiopia had attached conditions to the decision.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi then told parliament that he was building up the army's capabilities because he fears an imminent attack by Eritrea. He also accused his neighbor of arming rebel groups inside his country.
In its resolution Monday, the Security Council demanded that Eritrea withdraw its troops and heavy military equipment from the buffer zone and Ethiopia reduce the number of additional military forces it has recently sent to areas next to the zone.
It also called on both sides to "show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat or use of force against each other."
The resolution welcomed the pledge by Ethiopia to accept the border commission's 2002 ruling, but demanded the country take "concrete steps" to enable the commission to demarcate the border as quickly as possible.
A 2005 U.N. resolution called for a 620-mile buffer zone between the two countries, but in the past year Eritrean forces have moved into the zone and have stymied efforts by U.N. peacekeepers to monitor the area. The Security Council has repeatedly called for Eritrea to lift its restrictions, including its ban on U.N. helicopter flights and night patrols.