27 October 1998


27 October 1998

Press Release


19981027 Right of Self-Determination Also Major Concern of Speakers

Racism was an ugly and primitive legacy that drove too much conflict in the modern world, the representative of the United States told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon, as it concluded its consideration of issues related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right of peoples to self-determination.

She added that racism was often the force behind terrorism, genocide, economic injustice and political oppression. A global discussion of the problem had never been more necessary.

The representative of India said racism was using scientific theories of racial inequality, and it had also taken on other, more subtle forms, sometimes buried in educational, cultural or linguistic qualifications.

She also said the right to self-determination in the post-colonial era was the right of people to freely determine their political, economic and social development within their national boundaries. In multi-ethnic societies with traditions of coexistence, the destiny of any one community was inextricably tied to those of others. Taken out of context, self- determination could be abused by interested parties to encourage secession, terrorism and mindless violence.

The representative of Syria said people had made great sacrifices to rid themselves of the forces of colonialism. Those who studied history would find that the basic forces of human history had not changed; foreign occupation of lands was never acceptable, and people would continue to struggle for their right to self-determination and to live in freedom.

Israel would be the last country to object to the right of self- determination, said the representative of that country. Zionism itself had been a movement to restore the self-determination of the Jewish people. However, the multilateral forum of the Third Committee was not the place to discuss issues that were intended for the negotiating table between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Statements were also made by representatives of Iraq, Indonesia, Republic of Moldova, Eritrea, France, Cyprus, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Singapore, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and El Salvador.

Rights of reply were exercised by Syria, the observer of Palestine, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 28 October, to begin its consideration of issues related to the programme of activities of the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People.

Committee Work Programme

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of issues related to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right of peoples to self-determination. (For background information on the documents before the Committee, see press release GA/SHC/3484 of 23 October.)

MOHAMMED AL-HUMAIMIDI (Iraq) said the right of self-determination was linked to the rights of people to freely allocate their natural resources and wealth, and was associated to the right to development. Iraq had received its independence after many struggles, and understood the right of self-determination and the importance of peoples' dignity and right to pursue their own goals. However, that principle had seen some degree of fall-back, in the form of direct and indirect military interventions and threats to use force, as well as political and economic pressure. Such actions were flagrant interferences in the rights of peoples to self-determination.

The people of Iraq had been victims of such actions, including the direct military intervention in the north of the country, he said. One of the direct results of that intervention had been the withdrawal of national leadership in that region, which had become the scene of bloody struggles as a result. Iraq had also seen murderous bombing, with false claims justifying the murder of civilians. Attempts by outsiders to create confrontations and the outside financing of the Iraqi opposition were infringements of Iraq's right to self-determination, as was the United States' insistence on continuing to impose an embargo on the country.

SAODAH SYAHRUDIN (Indonesia) said it was discouraging, as the twentieth century drew to its conclusion, that despite continuous efforts on the part of the international community, there were manifestations of racism and racial discrimination throughout the world. Not only did racism and racial discrimination persist and grow in magnitude, but they were helped to do so by new communication technologies. In that regard, she commended the organization of a seminar in Geneva last November on the role of the Internet, and she welcomed the establishment of a racism team early this year by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as part of its initial efforts to coordinate all the activities of the Third International Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.

Referring to the alleged incidents occurring last May, her Government had condemned any illegal acts and established an independent task force to undertake an inquiry into the events in an open and transparent manner, and her Government was ready to cooperate with the intelligence of foreign countries. The inquiry task force, led by the Vice-Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights, involved law enforcement authorities as well as prominent public figures from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As a multi-ethnic society, Indonesia could not tolerate racism and racial

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discrimination in any form. The world conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in the year 2001 would be a timely reminder and draw necessary attention to the increased practices of all forms of intolerance throughout the world. But international resources would have to be mobilized to ensure the means to address those issues.

DORE GOLD (Israel) said Israel would be the last country to object to the right of self-determination. Zionism itself was a movement to restore the self-determination of the Jewish people. The issue before the Committee was a matter of context. Israel and the Palestinians needed a political contest of cooperative peacemaking based on direct negotiations. It was only through bilateral negotiations that 98 per cent of the Palestinians in the territories came to be under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, where today they could run their own lives. It was only through hours of tireless, face-to-face negotiations that this week's historic Wye River Memorandum had been hammered out.

The Memorandum was built on principles of reciprocity and linkage, he said. It was based on strong security provisions, because peace without security could not endure. The struggle against terrorism must be comprehensive, dealing with the terror support structure, the apprehension of terrorist suspects, their prosecution and punishment. The Memorandum also established that the Palestinian National Council would nullify the clauses of the Charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that called for Israel's destruction. No other action could more concretely confirm before the Palestinians that the time for armed struggle had passed and the era of coexistence and cooperation had begun.

No stable permanent status agreement would be possible between Israel and the Palestinians unless it took into account Israel's legitimate need for defense against the capabilities that could be mobilized along its eastern front, he said. Israel and the Palestinians had committed themselves to keeping the peace process strictly in the context of direct talks, but that commitment was dangerously compromised when draft resolutions were offered that sought to predetermine the outcome of permanent status negotiations through decisions taken in the Third Committee. The PLO should not seek to advance resolutions in the United Nations bodies on issues that were intended for the negotiating table between Israel and the Palestinians.

VLAD CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) said the right of self-determination was a right included in the promotion of human rights, along with freedom of expression and peaceful association. At its centre was the right of people to make their own decisions, and to take part in their own public affairs. His country's new legislation ensured full human rights for all, including ethnic, religious and other groups. The right of self- determination, however, must be examined in relation to other principles of international law, including those of territorial and sovereign integrity.

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The principle of self-determination did not endorse the dismantling or violation of territorial or sovereign integrity of States. It was legitimate within a nation's own borders, but the right to self-determination must not destabilize the sovereign State, as was happening in east Moldova. Because of the intransigence of the highly politicized forces of separatism, it was difficult to solve the problem. It was clear the settlement of the issue had to take into account the territorial integrity of the State, he said, adding that such actions were different from the right of self-determination. In that regard, it was time to search for a better definition of the right of self-determination.

KAILASHO DEVI (India) said that, with the dismantling of apartheid, old and new forms of racism had been manifested in "scientific" theories of racial inequality, discriminatory immigration policies based on racial or ethnic considerations, electoral gains by political parties openly espousing racist ideologies, and racially motivated atrocities committed by police and even United Nations peacekeeping troops. But racism had also taken on subtle forms, sometimes buried in educational, cultural or linguistic qualifications, she continued. Because racism was so universal and psychologically deep- rooted, it needed to be addressed on many levels, including the psychological. Thus, racism was an examination of itself as a society. In that regard, she cited the words of the Secretary-General, which had drawn attention to the growing dangers posed by identity politics based on a "vilification" of the "other" whether that "other" was a different ethnic or tribal group, a different religion or nationality.

The right to self-determination in the post-colonial era was the right of people to freely determine their political, economic and social development within their national boundaries, she said. That was all the more true in multi-ethnic, pluralistic societies with traditions of coexistence, tolerance and accommodation where the destiny of any one community was inextricably tied with those of others. The 1993 Vienna Declaration on human rights had made it clear that self-determination should not be construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States. Taken out of context, she said, self-determination could be abused by interested parties to encourage secession, terrorism and mindless violence, stemming from intolerance aimed at destroying coexistence, tolerance, mutual respect, unity and secularism.

AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said Eritreans were tolerant towards their erstwhile colonizers, Italian or Ethiopian, and had not expressed any hatred or animosity towards them. It was, therefore, sad to note that Eritreans were the victims of a propaganda campaign of extraordinary venom based on ethnic hatred by the Government of Ethiopia since the beginning of the border dispute between the two countries in early May. The Ethiopian Government had been manipulating and exploring ethnicity for political purposes, using it as a weapon for its annexationist and expansionist ambitions.

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The propaganda campaign was based on cultural stereotyping, deliberately fabricated to create animosity by the people of Ethiopia towards Eritrea, he said. Eritreans were constantly accused of being arrogant chauvinists, belligerent and scornful of others, and anti-Ethiopian. The Eritrean Government was accused of fabricated crimes, which luckily had been refuted by third parties. In civilized countries, inciting hatred on the basis of race, religion, nationality or ethnicity was considered a crime. Not in Ethiopia, where the Government was inciting hatred. Eritreans in Ethiopia were therefore living in great fear. It was urgent for the Committee to express its denunciation of Ethiopia's advocacy of ethnic hatred and its aggression.

XAVIER STICKER (France) said his country was traditionally a country of asylum. It had been practising that role for centuries. Though there had been problems with many clandestine immigrants, France had recently recognized the status of close to 70,000 persons, taking into account their familial ties. In an effort to enlarge the scope of asylum laws, a law had been passed in May 1998 -- the Statute of Political Refugees -- that provided special consideration to persons who had acted to seek freedom or those whose lives were at political or personal risk. Today, the demand of only a small number of persons had not been satisfied.

France had been successful in this year's World Cup, but it had not waited until that moment to appreciate its ethnic groups. French law had always been against discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic origin. That claim could be supplemented by other evidence. The French delegation disagreed with certain parts of the Special Rapporteur's report, particularly paragraphs 31 and 32, regarding persons without legal papers. Their cases had been considered on the basis of the French juridical system, and not because of racial discrimination.

AHMAD AL-HARIRI (Syria) said the machinery of the United Nations sought to tackle the troubling trends of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. As a country that had achieved independence in this century, Syria supported and had contributed to the struggle of people that had been under the occupation of foreign forces. People made great sacrifices to rid themselves of the forces of colonialism. Those who studied history found that the basic forces of human history had not changed; foreign occupation of lands was never acceptable, and people would continue to struggle for their right to self-determination and to live in freedom.

The United Nations had made many great achievements and had passed volumes of resolutions, but it had failed to enable the people of Palestine to exercise their right of self-determination. The Palestinian refugees had been aspiring for half a century to return to their homeland, but they were unable to do so, because of the colonial settlement practices of Israel, which brought Jewish settlers from all over the world to displace the Palestinian people. Israel contravened all the norms of international law. Its continued

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distortion of history would not bring stability and security to a region which was considered a yardstick of international peace and security. Israel must immediately recognize the rights of the Palestinian people without using pretexts and flimsy excuses that were designed to extend their rule over the Palestinian people.

DEMETRIS HADJIARGYROU (Cyprus) said that at the threshold of the third millennium, the plight of refugees, the protection of minorities and immigrants, avoidance of feelings of racial superiority and protection of indigenous populations were becoming important to keep the international community together. Cyprus was one of the first States to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; it was also one of the 25 States responsible for the Declaration on Racial Discrimination, which effectively recognized the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) to receive and consider communications from individuals and groups, within their jurisdiction, who claimed to be victims of State parties.

In its efforts to reach full conformity with the Convention and noting CERD's suggestions, his Government had reviewed and amended the legal framework on the protection of refugees and displaced persons regardless of ethnic origin, as well as the procedure for acquiring Cypriot citizenship. Further, Cyprus had established various institutions to facilitate the implementation of the Convention and had strengthened its channels of cooperation with non-governmental organizations. It had paid special attention to the education programmes for children belonging to minorities through a system of subsidies to assist them in their particular needs. In addition, language programmes had been offered to children of immigrants, as well as training programmes for civil servants on the provisions of the Convention. Citing CERD, he said that because 37 per cent of the territory of Cyprus was occupied by Turkish forces, that division of the country had adversely affected efforts to reduce tension among its various ethnic and religious communities.

SAMIRA BELHAJ (Tunisia) expressed concern at the dangers and threats presented by the rise of extremist ideologies centred on a hatred of foreigners and advocating racial purity. Racist political parties focused on immediate electoral concerns, focusing attention on foreigners; the immigrant legally in a host country, therefore, became an easy target. In Africa, recent years had seen many acts of ethnic violence, which had forced whole populations to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, creating even more complicated situations. It must be remembered that an essential aspect of the solution to such situations was economic development.

Tunisia had committed itself firmly to making tolerance a value which symbolized a harmonious society, and had banned all forms of extremism of any nature, she said. Tolerance in the country was a bulwark against hatred.

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Tunisia ceaselessly promoted an openness of spirit, and had introduced school programmes to inculcate tolerance in children.

B.A.B. GOONETILLEKE (Sri Lanka) said deliberation of the item under consideration was about the legacy of colonialism. The fact that colonialism and its vestiges could not be considered entirely as past was highlighted by the statement made by the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who said that some 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories remaining in the world could not fully exercise their right to self-determination. The United Nations had the responsibility to focus attention on that situation with a view to assisting the peoples of those territories to achieve their inalienable right.

Sri Lanka shared the view that people should be permitted to decide on their political and social systems, economic models and their own paths to development, without external impositions. It was generally agreed that violations of the right to self-determination could also occur within a State itself. That was based on the principle reiterated in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on human rights, that all peoples, not only those under colonial rule, had the right to self-determination. In essence, the right to self-determination did not even end when all Non-Self-Governing Territories became sovereign and independent countries. That was a right which had no strict time span for it was a right to be enjoyed by all peoples.

What were the choices open to the peoples whose right to self-determination was violated, whether in the context of colonial domination, foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation or by repressive regimes? he asked. The Vienna Declaration recognized the right of peoples to take legitimate action in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations to realise their inalienable right. That excluded, categorically, indiscriminate and callous attacks on civilian life and property, and other acts of terrorism that caused death and destruction, he continued. The Vienna Declaration made it clear that the right to self-determination should not be construed as authorizing or encouraging actions to dismember or impair the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.

HENRY MANGAYA YANGE (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that during the fifty-second and fifty-third sessions of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in Geneva in March and August this year, the Committee had made decisions which were quite subjective. The discernment necessary for analysis in such cases had not been apparent, and the decisions had been based on a misreading of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. He was increasingly convinced that in its analyses of the situation, the international community was making the victim the designated accused, often transposing the problem of genocide or extermination onto a territory other than the one where such crimes were committed regularly.

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Never in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had there been any attempts to unite against any group of tribes to exterminate them. Even during colonization, the ethnic group which believed itself to be persecuted, had benefited from the protection of the national and provincial authorities, which they today accuse. Fleeing the atrocities in their own countries, they had found asylum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they had lived for more than 30 years without ever having asked for naturalization. In 1994, many of them had returned to their villages, after they had emptied the granary and the pastures of those who had hosted them for years.

CHUA SOON GUAN (Singapore) said racial harmony in his country had been maintained through the right mix of policies and measures that gave equal status to each race, language and religion. His Government adopted a policy of multilingualism, multiculturalism and multireligion; that is, Singapore did not attempt to create a nation based on one language, one culture, or one religion. Second, based on the principle of meritocracy, Singaporeans had equal rights and opportunities in acquiring knowledge and skills relevant to their capacity. Singaporeans also had equal access to a whole range of social benefits and facilities for public housing, health care, education and training, which were highly subsidized by his Government. At the community level, self-help groups provided community support and all forms of assistance to the needy people from all races.

In Singapore, every person, regardless of race or religion, had the potential to develop to his or her fullest capability, with appropriate training and development. Recognizing the talent of each individual was important as it was the basis of a strong national manpower capability based on racial harmony and rigorous talent development. This policy had succeeded in maintaining Singapore's economic vitality. His Government was putting in place a system of lifelong learning that would further develop and enhance the competency of each individual.

MUNAWAR SAEED BHATTI (Pakistan) said the fight against new forms of racism and racial discrimination deserved concerted efforts both at the national and international levels. At the national level, governments needed to take measures to raise awareness among youth, professionals, civil servants, and personnel of law enforcement organizations about the social and economic costs of racism and racial discrimination. Human rights education should also be included in school curricula. Enactment and implementation of strict laws would provide an effective remedy against racist incidents and prevent propagation of racist ideologies in society.

Technological advancements in cyberspace, particularly the Internet, were being misused to propagate hate speech and incite racial hatred among people, he said. He believed that scientific achievements, such as the Internet, should be used for the good of humanity as a tool of education to combat and prevent all racist doctrine and practices and to promote

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understanding among various segments of society, communities and peoples. Pakistan would support any inter-governmental process to evolve a code of conduct for the ethical use of the Internet while fully respecting individual rights such as freedom of speech.

SALEH AL-RAJIHI (Saudi Arabia) said his country supported the struggle of the Palestinian people to achieve self-determination on their own land and establish their own State. It firmly rejected the subjection, enslavement and control of that people, as well as the refusal by the Israeli occupier to give them their legitimate rights. Saudi Arabia had supported the peace process from the beginning, but had seen setbacks caused by the Israeli policies of evasion and avoidance of the principles of the peace process. It continued to negate the rights of the Palestinian people and to deprive them of their rights. He urged the international community, especially the United States, to do everything possible to grant the Palestinian people their right of self-determination so that peace and security could prevail.

Saudi Arabia also supported the Bosnian people on all levels, he said, condemning the hateful policies of ethnic cleansing practised during the Serbian aggression. The Serbs had hardly stopped their aggression against Bosnia when they began their new aggression against the peaceful people of Kosovo, violating their rights. He urged the international community to assume its responsibility and take all measures to put an end to that inhuman tragedy. The continuing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir also represented a source of danger for peace and security in South Asia that could not be ignored. The right of self-determination must be granted to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without any pressure from foreign intervention.

BETTY KING (United States) said her country was founded on the principle that all men were created equal. That had been envisioned by the founding fathers, and the country had fought dearly and hard to realize that truth. It had struggled with slavery, racism, intolerance and xenophobia in many forms, both towards newcomers and towards the indigenous peoples of the country. It had fought too dearly and too hard to allow a stagnation or reversal of progress. The President had launched a nationwide dialogue on race last year, and the United States intended to continue the grand project that had been undertaken at the formation of the nation.

The United States fully supported the World Conference on Racism, she said. Racial conflict was one of the most vexing issues facing the international community. It was often behind terrorism, genocide, economic injustice and political oppression. The World Conference on Racism would give the international community the chance to share what had been learned, and to learn from the lessons of others. A global discussion on race had never been more necessary, and she stressed that the Conference must be productive. Racism was an ugly and primitive legacy that drove too much conflict in the modern world. To understand that reality was to begin the emancipation from brutality and warfare, the emancipation from injustice and inequality.

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CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador) said there had been an alarming use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the right of peoples to self-determination. Those activities had growing ties to a variety of destructive phenomena. His Government agreed with the Special Rapporteur that mercenaries had been used in countless acts of sabotage. The activities of mercenaries and their crimes, such as illicit trafficking in arms had promoted a market which, in turn, drew recruits for monetary gain. His Government was making efforts to strengthen its national police, which had succeeded in breaking up 162 dangerous armed gangs and had captured numerous criminals. As a basic pillar of democratic existence, the Government had passed legislation that included penal codes, a family code, and a fair trial code. That the human person was the end and goal of all State activities was a basic principle El Salvador's constitutional order.

His Government was making efforts to ban mercenaries and trade union armed groups, he said. His Government reiterated its firm commitment to combat illicit activities, including trafficking of arms, and the use of mercenaries inside its borders as well as outside. It condemned all those activities as they clearly violated human rights, and undermined the self-determination of peoples, and violated sovereign territory.

Right of Reply

The representative of Syria, in exercising the right of reply, said that, in fact, it was his country which had been subjected to aggression by Israel, including the occupation of the Syrian Golan. Israel had done so using modern arms and enjoying the support of certain countries. The representative of Israel had made the same statements a year ago. The same lies had been repeated to justify Israeli aggression against Syria and the Arab States and in justification of the occupation of Arab territories.

Speaking in right of reply, the representative of Palestine said there were five issues: further redeployment, security, the interim economic agreement, permanent status, and unilateral action. She said the right of Palestinians did not emanate from previous agreements, but was a national and inherent right, which must be upheld by the international community. Further, the bilateral agreement between Palestinians and Israel should not negate international law. Negotiations without preconditions did not mean giving up rights in advance. It was regrettable that the Israeli delegate, in spite of some progress achieved, had returned to old arguments that undermined the legitimacy of the Palestinian right. However, it had not succeeded in the past and would not succeed now.

The representative of Ethiopia said she wished to address the somewhat ludicrous allegations that had been made by the representative of Eritrea. In order to avoid ambiguity, it was important to put things in perspective. Until 1991, Eritrea and Ethiopia had been one country, and from 1993, the relationship between the two countries had been exemplary. However, in

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May 1998, Eritrea had launched an attack on Ethiopia and occupied part of the Ethiopian territory. As a result of the unprovoked aggression of the Eritrean regime, thousands of people had been displaced.

On a point of order, the representative of Eritrea interrupted the representative of Ethiopia, saying the meeting had been convened to address issues of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, not aggression or displacement. The speaker was therefore out of order.

The Committee Chairman asked the representative of Ethiopia to take the floor again, but to stick to the spirit of the right of reply, which was to answer a statement that had been made.

The representative of Ethiopia said she had to give the background to the accusations she was answering. Ethiopia was a country in which equal rights were constitutionally guaranteed. Regarding Eritrean nationals, the Government of Ethiopia had said that they had the right to live in Ethiopia, and their freedoms were guaranteed. Given the history of the Eritrean Government, it was perplexing that the Eritrean representative had the temerity to accuse her Government of incitement of racial hatred. The Ethiopian Government had undertaken not to expel Eritreans. It had taken only precautionary measures in the face of subversion by some Eritrean nationals. Limited measures had been taken against those spying for the Eritrean Government.

The representative of Eritrea said one thing was certain, the Ethiopian representative had not answered his statement. The representative had denied the undeniable. In an interview with Radio Ethiopia in July 1998, the Ethiopian leadership had said that the Eritreans were arrogant and wanted to keep the Ethiopian people in servitude. Other radio interviews had said that the Eritreans were a backward people, and that the policy of the Government of Eritrea was to ensure that their neighbours lived in poverty. Not only were such statements signs of a bankrupt diplomacy, but the venom was calculated to evoke hatred, which was criminal. He challenged the Ethiopian delegate to provide concrete evidence of similar action by the Eritrean Government.

The representative of Ethiopia said the statement by the representative of Eritrea was preposterous and hysterical. Not once had the Ethiopian people said the things that he had accused them of saying. Ethiopia was a mosaic country made up of many different ethnic groups, and could not be accused of racism. The efforts of the representative of Eritrea were a desperate and futile attempt to deflect the attention of the international community from the real issues.

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For information media. Not an official record.