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Ethiopia elders urge OLF rebels to negotiate

Ethiopia elders urge OLF rebels to negotiate

By Tsegaye Tadesse

- An Ethiopian rebel group must listen to its people and start talks with the government to end a 15-year insurgency in the Horn of Africa nation, elders from the Oromo ethnic group said on Saturday.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the main U.S. ally in the turbulent region, is opposed by a range of rebel groups from remote regions, including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which has fought for autonomy for its southern homeland since 1993.

"We strongly demand that the OLF leadership heed the genuine desire of the Oromo people and enter into negotiations with the Ethiopian government without further delay," a group of 125 Oromo elders said in a statement.

It said the guerrillas should respect a pact with Meles' administration reached in the Netherlands in January under which the rebels agreed to accept Ethiopia's constitution in principle and start talks.

The government blames the insurgents for several bomb blasts targeting the capital, Addis Ababa, in recent years, and last week it said its forces had killed a senior OLF commander after luring him to a farmer's house in the west of the country.

Ethiopia accuses arch-foe Eritrea of backing the OLF and other rebels. Asmara denies it, and accuses Meles of oppressive policies that have triggered resistance movements. From 1998 to 2000, the two nations fought a border war in which 70,000 people were killed



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