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Bridge linking Ethiopia and Eritrea to re-open on Saturday, UN mission says

Bridge linking Ethiopia and Eritrea to re-open on Saturday, UN mission says

The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) today announced that a bridge linking the two countries which had been destroyed during their two-year war will be re-opened tomorrow, thanks to the efforts of UN peacekeepers who worked overtime to rebuild the span in advance of the coming rainy season.

UNMEE announced the re-opening of the Mereb river bridge linking the Ethiopian village of Rama and the Eritrean town of Adi Quala during simultaneous briefings conducted in the respective capitals of the two countries. The mission said that UNMEE troops "worked day and night" to complete the bridge before the fast-approaching rains.

Using floodlights at the site in order to work at night, UN peacekeepers completed the construction, which normally would have taken a month, in 15 days, according to parallel press briefings given by spokesman Chris de Bono in Asmara and deputy spokesperson Angela Walker in Addis Ababa.

At the briefing, the spokespersons also issued a formal statement underscoring the importance of UNMEE's freedom of movement throughout the territories of the two countries, in accordance with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed by the Governments of both nations.

While the Ethiopian authorities have agreed to UNMEE's freedom of movement, the Eritrean Government "has repeatedly argued against our right to unrestricted freedom of movement outside the TSZ [Temporary Security Zone] and supply routes to the Zone," the statement noted. "This has impeded our ability to undertake our responsibilities - according to the Secretary-General -- in a major way."

The UN Mission emphasized that it must have freedom of movement in order to carry out the tasks the two Governments had asked it to undertake. "UNMEE expects the commitments on this matter to be honoured," the statement said.