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Sudan Tribune

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US urges Ethiopian opposition parties to stop violence

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2005 (AP) — The U.S. urged all parties to Ethiopia’s new nonviolence agreement to stop the bloodshed that has resulted in 37 deaths in the aftermath of elections last month that both sides claimed were rigged.

The leader of one of the two main opposition parties said after signing the joint declaration on Friday that it was worthless because government security people continued arrests. Under intense political pressure, the party leadership renewed its support for the document.

By then, the government refused to accept the turnabout, however, unless the Coalition for Unity and Democracy admitted it had set unauthorized conditions before the agreement could take force. Coalition leader Hailu Shawel and another top party official were arrested.

“We are deeply concerned about the election-related violence that continued last week,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Monday. “You have up to 36 people that have been reported killed and others arrested. And we are deeply concerned about that situation.”

McClellan said, however, the U.S. is encouraged by the signing of the joint declaration and expects “each party after signing the declaration to abide by the letter and spirit of the agreement without adding conditions that were not part of that agreement.”

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government, which has promised democracy and good governance in return for greater aid and debt relief, claimed victory in the elections based on preliminary returns. Among all the parties, complaints were filed in 299 of Ethiopia’s 527 parliamentary constituencies.

McClellan said officials of the Carter Center, former President Jimmy Carter’s good-government advocacy institution in Atlanta, have been involved with seeking a settlement of the disputes, and all parties have agreed to abide by the electoral commission’s ruling.

“Violence is unacceptable. The threat of violence is unacceptable,” McClellan said. “We continue to make that clear.”

Also at the White House, President Festus Mogae of Botswana, one of five elected African leaders who visited President George W. Bush on Monday, expressed regret about the election violence in Ethiopia.

“But on the whole,” he said, “you know that they are trying to be democratic. It’s a multiparty democracy. The ruling party is a coalition. The opposition are a coalition.”

He said he couldn’t be definitive or categorical about the Ethiopian situation, not having been there, “but it’s a democratic election taking place. And if some things are going wrong, it will be only a matter of regret.”

Ethiopia and Botswana are among 18 of the world’s poorest countries whose debts the finance ministers of eight major countries agreed to write off this past weekend.

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