From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Nov 06 2008 - 13:57:24 EST
Eritrea hopes Obama will change US policy in Horn of Africa
ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki on Thursday voiced hope that US president-elect Barack Obama will change his country's policy in the Horn of Africa, a region blighted by conflicts.
"It is my utmost pleasure to convey to your excellency ... my warmest congratulations ... for your landslide victory and election as the 44th president of the United States," Issaias said in a letter to Obama.
"Let me further avail of this historic occasion to express my ardent hope that US policy in our region will indeed change under your excellency's presidency to pursue a constructive path to advance the causes of regional peace, justice and legality."
Ties between the two nations have been frosty over the past few years, with Asmara accusing the US of backing arch-foe Ethiopia in its border dispute with Addis Ababa.
Washington claims the small African state has backed Islamist groups in Somalia, an allegation denied by Eritrea.
Asmara has called for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, who, under US-backing, are in Mogadishu to prop up an ineffective transitional government. Last year, the US State Department included Eritrea alongside Belarus, China, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe on its list of "the world's most systematic human rights violators."
In addition, the US placed an arms ban on Asmara in October after allegations that it was supporting "terrorists" in Somalia, feared to be a future haven for extremist groups.
For its part, Eritrea banned the United States Agency for International Development from operating in the country in 2007 and also imposed curbs on US diplomats.
In response, Washington closed Eritrea's consulate in Oakland, California.
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