US to list Eritrea as 'rogue state'


ERITREA:Eritrea looks set to be designated the world's newest "rogue state" as the list of Bush administration grievances against the tiny Horn of Africa country lengthens. But growing US pressure may succeed only in fuelling barely contained regional conflicts, including Somalia's civil war and the Eritrea-Ethiopia border dispute.

Jendayi Frazer, US assistant secretary of state for Africa, complained during a visit to Addis Ababa this month that Eritrea's capital, Asmara, was becoming a safe haven for Islamist terrorists from across east Africa.

Ms Frazer took exception to a recent conference there of Somali opposition groups that included Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts movement, which was forced from power last winter by invading Ethiopian troops.

"The fact is, Eritrea is providing sanctuary to terrorists," Ms Frazer said. "Aweys is designated by the US and UN security council for his association with al-Qaeda. He's attending the conference in Asmara that's supported by the government. So the linkage is quite significant."

US displeasure also arises from its conviction, backed by a UN report in July, that Eritrea is arming Islamist insurgents fighting the transitional federal government in Mogadishu, promoted by the US and Britain as Somalia's sole legitimate government. Washington also suspects Eritrea and Islamist groups are assisting separatists in Ethiopia's pro-western Somali state.

"We're worried by a whole range of Eritrean behaviours," a US diplomatic source said.

Ms Frazer warned on September 9th that the US was considering adding Eritrea to its list of countries that "sponsor international terrorism", thereby automatically triggering sanctions.