Sunday, March 05, 2006

Lift ban on helicopter flights, Annan tells Eritrea

From The Tide Online 5 Mar 2006:

UN Secretary-Gen eral Kofi Annan urged Eritrea on Thursday to lift its ban on UN helicopter flights, said to hinder a timely, evacuation of a sick peacekeeper.

Annan urged "in the strongest terms, the Eritrean authorities to lift without delay the arbitrary restriction which places at risk the lives of UN personnel," UN chiefs spokesman, Stephane Dujarric said.

A soldier from the Indian Battalion of the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) died from cardiac arrest on Wednesday shortly after being flown to an Ethiopian hospital.

The UN mission said Eritrea's flights ban forced the sick soldier to be flown on a longer route and cost him the most precious rescue time.

"Because of the inadmissible restrictions imposed by Eritrea, the medical evacuation of the sick peacekeeper to a hospital required the use of a longer route," the spokesman said in a statement.

The UNMEE, now comprising mostly soldiers from India and Jordan, has some 3,000 troops stationed in Ethiopia and Eritrea to monitor the two countries' borders.

Since mid-2005, Eritrea has banned helicopter flights and restricted ground patrols of the UN mission.

In December, 2005, it demanded the mission's North American and European personnel leave its territory.


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