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Friday, February 5, 2010

Eritrea allowed to appoint AU envoy after bitter protest

The African Union Commission Chief Jean Ping, has informed Eritrea to send an ambassador to represent it in Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union (AU), despite Eritrea's frosty relations with hosts, Ethiopia.

Eritrea, which is one of only two African countries on the AU sanctions list, protested to the African leaders that its right to fair representation at the AU, had been violated.

Eritrea's Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh, wrote a protest letter to the AU Commission, saying that it had been unable to enjoy its rights as one of the 53 members of the AU.

'For over 10 years, Eritrea's right as a member of the African Union has been willfully violated, in contemptuous disregard of the headquarters agreement with the AU,' Saleh wrote.

In his response to the Eritrean protest, Ping informed Eritrea in a letter, dated 29 January, 2010, that the country was entitled to fair representation at the AU.

But Eritrea's right to appoint an envoy or to send a delegation to the AU, would be strictly limited to its work at the AU.

Ping said after receiving the Eritrean protest, he held talks with Ethiopian aut horities 'at the highest level' and received assurances that Eritrea could open a mission.

'We have been informed that the establishment of such a mission will be in accordance with the terms conveyed to you by the former AU Commission Chairperson, Prof Alpha Konare,' Ping said.

Eritrea will be allowed to open an embassy in Addis Ababa, specifically accredited to the AU.

This embassy will not be allowed to carry out any bilateral activities and its staff will operate from Addis Ababa, only where the AU headquarters is located, Ping said.

Ping said his predecessor, Prof. Konare, also informed Eritrea that it could attend the AU meetings in Ethiopia. He said Ethiopia has assured Eritrean diplomats of visa and security should they plan to attend future AU mee tings in Addis Ababa.

'In light of this, I would urge Mr. Minister, that you kindly reiterate to your government this assurance from the government of Ethiopia, so that its Mission to the AU, could be established as soon as possible,' Ping wrote.

Eritrea is under heavy UN sanctions for allegedly supplying arms to rebel fighters in Somalia.

Ethiopia proposed the Eritrean sanctions during a meeting in Addis Ababa, of the ministers from the Inter-government Authority on Development (IGAD).

The AU adopted the request to impose sanctions against Eritrea for its destabilization of Somalia during an AU Summit in June, 2009, in Sirte, central Libya.

Eritrea and Ethiopia went to war over a disputed territory and have refused to settle their differences. Efforts to mediate the crisis have been opposed by both sides.


Egypt: Police kill two black migrants

Egyptian border police shot dead two African migrants who tried to escape into Israel through the Sinai border, bringing the number of migrants killed this week to four. Police sources say they refused orders to stop. They were a 26-year-old Eritrean and a 27-year-old migrant of unknown nationality.
Another migrant from Eritrea was critically injured by police as the clandestine group attempted to reach Israel, AFP reported on Thursday.

Observers say increased violence at the border is partly due to the increasing popularity of the route, seen as safer than risking passage by sea from Libya to Europe.

Egyptian Police say they have detained another five Eritreans and three Ethiopians who tried to get into Israel on Wednesday.

Dozens of unarmed Africans, many from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, seeking work or asylum in Israel were killed by Egyptian border guards last year, while five have died this year.

Israel has been pressuring Egypt to clamp down on the traffic, with a recent approval of the construction of barriers along the two countries' 155-mile border.


Nevsun raising $117M in private placement; to issue 52M common shares

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Nevsun Resources Ltd. (TSX:NSU) says it plans to raise $117 million in a private placement aimed at developing its Bisha gold and base metals mine in Eritrea.

The private placement of 52 million shares at $2.25 per share is scheduled to close on or before Feb. 19. Other details were not given.

"The company is confident the funds from this private placement, together with its existing cash and the ongoing one-third contribution by the state of Eritrea to Bisha will be sufficient to see the Bisha project through to cash-positive operations," Nevsun said in a news release.

"The funding arrangements are in excess of estimated costs to complete so as to provide a reasonable cushion in the event of unforeseen events," it said.

The government-owned Eritrean National Mining Corp. has "reliably" provided its one-third contributing share of financing to Bisha as the project has progressed, Nevsun said.

Last month, Nevsun described the project as "very well advanced" approaching 50 per cent complete with costs now estimated to be about $260 million, close to the original budget of approximately $250 million.

Nevsun stock was up 12 cents or more than 5.6 per cent at $2.24 at midafternoon Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange in trading that saw more than 4.2 million shares change hands.


Experts see Eritrea leading regional mining surge

ASMARA (Reuters) - An impending mining boom in Eritrea will challenge oil-rich neighbours to make it easier for foreign companies to prospect across a massive geological structure in the region rich in base metals and gold, analysts say.

Eritrea set the government's stake in any mining project at 10 percent stake in 2008 with an option to buy a further 30 percent, a small claim compared to other countries in the area like Egypt which mandates a 50 percent stake or Sudan at 60 percent, according to industry experts.

The relatively liberal mining terms have led more than a dozen foreign companies to get licenses to explore in Eritrea which analysts expect to accelerate dramatically in the next five years and provide a lifeline for the impoverished economy.

Advanced projects are at Bisha, run by Canada's Nevsun Resources Ltd, with gold production expected by the end of the year, and at Zara, run by Australia's Chalice Gold Mines and expected to start producing a year later.

"In the next ten years other nations in the region will look at Eritrea's mining boom and they will want in. They will relax their laws and it will become a regional boom," Timothy Strong, Eritrea manager for British company London Africa, told Reuters.

"If you look at the geography, Eritrea is a relatively small nation compared to African giants Sudan and Egypt, but it has many more foreign mining companies than the others combined. Geologically speaking, they are just as prospective as Eritrea."

The companies are attracted to Eritrea because it sits on a patch of the Arabian Nubian Shield, a geologic feature that stretches from Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the east to Sudan and Egypt in the west.


Rapist migrant from Eritrea 'may be deported'

An illegal immigrant has been sent to prison for raping an 18-year-old woman at a holiday camp where they worked.

Merhawi Ghebe, 30, from Eritrea, had at first denied the offence at the Gwynedd camp but pleaded guilty after DNA evidence came to light.

In addition to the four-and-a-half year prison term, he was placed on the sex offenders' register for life.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard that Ghebe could be deported when he is released from prison.

Ghebe had initially told police the girl had pulled him on to a bed and asked him for a hug, and denied any sexual contact.

John Philpotts, prosecuting, said the DNA evidence proved this was a lie.

The court heard that Ghebe had been sentenced to nine months in jail at Isleworth crown court in November 2007 for having a false identity document.

On his release a friend had found him work in a Pwllheli kebab shop, then most of last year he was employed at the camp.

John Wyn Williams, defending, said Ghebe moved to Britain from Eritrea after being in Italy, and it may be that in due course he will be deported.


Eritrea Government Has Transparent Investment Policy, Says Official

Eritrea’s information minister says President Isaias Afewerki’s government has a protective and transparent policy towards local and international investments that can rival any country on earth.

Ali Abdu says Eritrea has been attracting lots of investors despite recently imposed United Nations sanctions.

“It was proven that previous investments were very successful, and we do believe that all you need to invest in Eritrea is just one step to knock the door and be welcomed in a very conducive atmosphere,” he said.

Analysts project that Eritrea will soon experience a mining boom that will rival its oil-rich neighbors following Asmara’s modest stake in any mining project.

Minister Abdu said Eritrea in 2008 set its stake in any mining project at 10 percent, with a choice to buy a further 30 percent, which he said is encouraging to international investors.

“We are very cautious on how to handle our natural resources, be it in the land or on the sea. We are lucky enough to take experience from a number of African countries with their huge natural resources, but which is not seen on their output. The bottom line of our objective is to have the result of social justice in our natural resources,” Abdu said.

Observers say Eritrea seems to be enjoying a boom in international exploration companies that have expressed interest in its natural resources.

Minister Abdu says Asmara is fair with potential investors.

“The rationale is we want to be fair and just. I mean, that is our principle… it should serve the interest of the people and it should be handled as a blessing, not as a curse to the people and to the economy of that country,” Abdu said.

The United Nations recently imposed sanctions on Eritrea after accusing the Horn of Africa country of supporting hard-line Islamist insurgents who have vowed to overthrow the internationally-backed administration in Somalia. It’s a charge Eritrea denies.

Abdu notes that Eritrea’s investment drive has not been affected by the sanctions.

“Not at all, because everybody knows that (those sanctions) were politically motivated. I wouldn’t say that one of their objectives is to harm our economy…Nevertheless …we are not subsidized economically and politically by any power. We stand on our own foot. We’ve been for a long time working for our food security, (and) our economy is as independent as our political stance,” Abdu said.