Sat, Oct 22, 2005
Soldiers Needing Medical Attention Suffer Most
Being a UN peacekeeping troop is tough under any circumstances,
but along the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia, that job as been
made a whole lot tougher. Eritrean government officials have banned
the use of helicopters along that tense frontier, putting the lives
of peacekeepers in danger, according to UN officials.
"This is a place where infrastructure is nonexistent, so we rely
on helicopters for the safety and security of our people,"
Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie
Guehenno told a news conference, as quoted by UPI. "Now we
UN peacekeepers have patrolled the
border in helicopters, vehicles and on foot since the fighting
between Eritrea and Ethiopia ended in 2000. Because of the
unilateral helicopter ban, UN forces are now consolidating their
operations along the 600-mile frontier, shutting down 18 of the 40
outposts there. That makes it tougher to verify claims that Eritrea
is now stationing troops in the demilitarized zone.
It's also putting lives in danger. Three peacekeepers were hurt
in a vehicle accident on Monday. The UN asked for -- and was denied
-- permission to evacuate them by helicopter. Eritrean officials
refused to respond to the request, forcing the UN to drive the
injured troops for eight hours before they reached a hospital.
"They are in good condition in the Jordanian hospital in Asmara,
so things are okay," Guehenno said. "But they could have been not
There seems to be little hope that the helicopter ban will be
lifted -- and an even smaller chance that the UN will defy the
order to keep its helos on the ground. "The mission, to do its
job," Guehenno said, "has to have the consent of the parties."
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