US backs sanctions against Eritrea: envoy

The United States threw its weight Wednesday behind calls for UN sanctions against Eritrea over its links to militant attacks.

Ethiopia has been leading lobbying by East African nations for tougher UN measures against its arch-rival neighbour. A UN monitoring group says Eritrea had tried to organised bomb attacks during an African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January.

"The United States is very much interested in additional pressure and sanctions being applied on Eritrea," US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters.

"The United States is very very concerned about Eritrea's behavior in the region."

Eritrea's efforts to "destabilize its neighbors," including supporting Shebab insurgents in Somalia had been "persuasively" documented by the UN monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea in its July report, the US ambassador said.

"We heard during a session last month from virtually all of Eritrea's neighbors that they face a pattern of destabilization that is quite troubling and quite disturbing."

Rice called Eritrea's alleged links to the bomb plot "an absolutely abhorrent development" that calls for UN Security Council action.

"Any measures to be contemplated would be carefully targeted and would not go in any way to harm the people of Eritrea who are suffering enough as it is," the envoy added.

Aid groups say Eritrea is suffering badly from the drought and famine that has hit East Africa. But the government has denied there is a drought and has barred UN agencies and aid groups.

Ethiopia and Djibouti have been leading East African efforts to press the UN Security Council to step up sanctions on Eritrea. One round of sanctions was ordered in 2009.

A summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development -- which includes Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda -- called last month for sanctions against Eritrea's mining interests or a ban on a tax the radical government puts on remittances sent back by Eritreans abroad


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