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mercoledì 16 aprile 2008

Eritrea cuts diesel supplies to U.N. agencies-UN

ASMARA, April 15 (Reuters) - Eritrea has cut off diesel supplies to U.N. agencies in the Red Sea state, but the move may not be politically-motivated, the world body said on Tuesday.

The step comes just weeks after U.N. peacekeepers were forced to withdraw from the Eritrean-Ethiopian border over a petrol stoppage. Eritrea says the whole country faces shortages.

"When we sent our cars to the petrol station, we were told that there was an order not to supply fuel to U.N. agencies," said one U.N. official who asked not to be named.

"Given the fuel shortages in all other sectors of the economy, it's not targeting the U.N., nor is it political," the official said, adding that the majority of the world body's long-distance vehicles used diesel.

The official would not speculate on how long the cut-off might last. The Eritrean government was not immediately available for comment.

All diplomats and foreign bodies receive a fuel ration each month from the government. The Red Sea state has regular petrol supply problems mainly due to shortages of foreign currency.

But Eritrea also has frosty relations with the United Nations, which it accuses of failing to force arch-foe Ethiopia to implement a 2002 border ruling -- part of a peace deal that ended their 1998-2000 war.

The diesel stoppage comes only weeks after Asmara shut off fuel supplies to a 1,700-strong U.N. force, causing a near complete withdrawal.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned earlier this month that pulling the peacekeepers from the border could trigger renewed conflict some ten years after the start of the two-year war that killed 70,000 people. (Reporting by Jack Kimball; Editing by Richard Balmforth) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit:

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