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UN concerned about Eritrea's exclusion of international demining groups

UN concerned about Eritrea's exclusion of international demining groups

The United Nations has pressed the Government of Eritrea to extend a deadline contained in a directive ordering international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in mine action activities to cease all work by the end of this month.

Earlier this month, the UN Secretariat, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) sent a joint letter to the Eritrean Government asking it to suspend the deadline and allow for further discussion, a UN spokesman said today in New York.

As a follow-up to the letter, a UN delegation - headed by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Simon Nhongo, and by the Chief of the UN Mine Action Service, Martin Barber - met with President Isaias Afwerki in Asmara.

The UN officials assured the President of the effectiveness of the NGO operations in mine action, according to spokesman Fred Eckhard. They also appealed for an extension of the deadline to allow the various parties involved to work out an appropriate transition strategy with the Government.

The spokesman reported that President Afwerki voiced concern regarding the NGOs' activities and reaffirmed his decision to have them end their operations by the end of the month.

"We very much regret that Eritrea insists on its decision to exclude the international NGOs from mine action," Mr. Eckhard said. "This will, no doubt, result in a significant loss of human and material capacity in this vital area."