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By Aaron Maasho

Ethiopia and Eritrea are still at each others’ throats. The two neighbours fought hammer and tongs in sun-baked trenches during a two-year war over a decade ago, before a peace deal ended their World War I-style conflict in 2000. Furious veRed Sea, UNrbal battles, however, have continued to this day.

Yet, amid the blistering rhetoric and scares over a return to war, analysts say the feuding rivals are reluctant to lock horns once again. Neighbouring South Sudan and some Ethiopian politicians are working on plans to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

Asmara has been named, shamed and then slapped with two sets of U.N. sanctions over charges that it was aiding and abetting al Qaeda-linked rebels in lawless Somalia in its proxy war with Ethiopia. However, a panel tasked with monitoring violations of an arms embargo on Somalia said it had no proof of Eritrean support to the Islamist militants in the last year.

Nevertheless, Eritrea's foreign ministry wasted little time in pointing a finger of accusation at its perennial rival. “The events over the past year have clearly shown that it is in fact Ethiopia that is actively engaged in destabilising Eritrea in addition to its continued occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory in violation of the U.N. Charter,” the ministry said in a statement last month.

The Red Sea state was referring to Addis Ababa’s open declaration in 2011 in which its late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his country would no longer take a “passive stance” towards its rival following Eritrea’s alleged plot to bomb targets in the Ethiopian capital during an African Union gathering of heads of state.

Then foreign minister (and now premier) Hailemariam Desalegn followed up on the rhetoric soon afterwards by disclosing his government’s support to Eritrean rebels. Meles and Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki were once comrades-in-arms, even rumoured to be distant relatives. Ethiopia’s late leader rubber-stamped a 1993 referendum that granted independence to the former province after their rebel groups jointly toppled Communist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military junta two years earlier.

The love affair did not last long. The pair fell out spectacularly after Eritrea introduced its own currency in 1997 and Ethiopia responded by insisting on trading in dollars. Their economic spat aggravated already simmering border tensions, which culminated in Eritrea deploying its tanks months later and occupying hotly disputed territory that was under Addis Ababa’s administration.

Ethiopian troops breached Eritrea’s trenches nearly a year later and retook contested ground - namely the flashpoint town of Badme – before a peace deal was signed. What then followed is the sticking point that remains today. An independent boundary commission awarded Badme to Eritrea in 2002 but the ruling is yet to take effect. Ethiopia wants to negotiate its implementation and warns that delimitation of the border as per the finding would unreasonably split towns and other geographical locations into two.

Asmara on the other hand insists on an immediate hand-over. The bickering has evolved into a proxy war and diplomatic skulduggery as both sides attempt to bring about regime change in the other. But despite the harsh words, mediation efforts are in the pipeline. Deng Alor, neighbouring South Sudan's Minister for Cabinet Affairs, told Reuters on Wednesday his newly-independent country is about to embark on rounds of shuttle diplomacy between the capitals of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Both countries, he said, have given their blessing.

A handful of Ethiopian members of parliament are also devising a similar initiative, local sources say. Addis Ababa has never ruled out mediation. But even though Eritrea publicly dismisses any idea of a thaw in strained relations before the Badme spat is resolved, recent developments might change its mind, some believe.

Ethiopian analysts think Asmara now realises that its neighbour may easily adopt a more belligerent stance following the sudden death of Meles, who they say stood firm against a potential slide towards full-scale conflict. And of course not all Ethiopians express enthusiasm about an independent Eritrea, the creation of which left their country without access to the Red Sea.

Some diplomats say the chances of both sides making drastic concessions from their current positions remain slim. So will the mediation efforts finally yield a deal?

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DRYING BY A FIRE
DRYING BY A FIRE: A Hindu holy man who had smeared ash on himself sat near a fire at Pashupatinath Temple in Katmandu, Nepal, Tuesday. Hindu holy men gathered at the temple for the Shivaratri festival, which celebrates lord Shiva. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

SLICING THROUGH THE AIR
SLICING THROUGH THE AIR: Japan’s Taku Takeuchi soared through the air during a practice jump at the Ski Jumping World Cup in Klingenthal, Germany, Tuesday. (David W. Cerny/Reuters)

TAKING AIM
TAKING AIM: A soldier for the African Union’s mission in Somalia took up a position during fighting between Islamists and government forces in southern Mogadishu Tuesday. Somalia called for an end to an arms embargo on the country so it can better fight an al Qaeda-backed insurgency. (Feisal Omar/Reuters)

IN SYRIA
IN SYRIA: A rebel fighter looked on after Syrian army tanks entered Idlib, Syria, Tuesday. (Associated Press)

STICKING OUT…TOGETHER
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WEN WAITS
WEN WAITS: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao waited for European Union Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy at the Great Hall of the People before their summit in Beijing Tuesday. (How Hwee-Young/Associated Press)

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Somalia is suffering its worst drought and famine in 60 years. Getting aid to the country has been difficult because al-Qaida-linked militants control much of the country’s most desperate areas.

The U.N.’s food arm said that famine is likely to spread across all regions of Somalia’s south in the next four to six weeks. Famine conditions are likely to persist until December, the Food and Agriculture Organization said.

Across Somalia, 3.7 million people are in crisis, the U.N. says, out of a population of 7.5 million. The U.N. says 3.2 million are in need of immediate, lifesaving assistance.

 Somalia Famine

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A malnourished child in a hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 27, 2011. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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Kufow Ali Abdi carried the body of his 3-year-old daughter, Kadija, who had just died from measles at the hospital in Mogadishu, July 28, 2011. "I just hope they can save the others," he said, referring to his two remaining children, who were down to skin and bone. The al-Shabab Islamist insurgent group, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape al-Shabab territory. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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A woman sits next to a child suffering from malnutrition at Banadir hospital in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, July 28, 2011. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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Flies cover the face of a boy suffering from malnutrition at a hospital in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, July 28, 2011. The al-Shabab Islamist insurgent group in Somalia is widely blamed for causing a famine by forcing out many Western aid organizations, depriving drought victims of desperately needed food and blocking starving people from fleeing territory controled by the group. The situation is growing bleaker by the day, with tens of thousands of Somalis already dead and more than 500,000 children on the brink of starvation. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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A boy suffering from malnutrition has a scarf cover his face to keep the flies away at a hospital in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, July 28, 2011. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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People displaced from their villages arriving in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, July 27, 2011. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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People at a makeshift camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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People who have fled their villages build a makeshift shelter after arriving in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, July 27, 2011. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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A woman holds a malnourished child at a makeshift camp in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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Malnourished children in a hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 27, 2011. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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A child suffering from malnutrition is bathed at a hospital in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp where it is imprisoning displaced people who were trying to escape Shabab territory. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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A woman carries a child at a makeshift shelter in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, July 27, 2011. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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A malnourished child in a hospital in Mogadishu. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia, is blocking starving people from fleeing the country and setting up a cantonment camp. (Tyler Hicks/The New York Times) #

 Somalia Famine

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Soldiers from the Somalian transitional government forces patrol the border town of Dhobley, Somalia, Sunday, July 24, 2011. Some thousands of people have arrived in Mogadishu seeking aid and The World Food Program executive director Josette Sheeran said Saturday they can't reach the estimated 2.2 million Somalis in desperate need of aid who are in militant-controlled areas of Somalia. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam) #

 Somalia Famine

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Somalis displaced by drought wait to receive food aid in Mogadishu, Somalia, Monday, July 25, 2011. Some thousands of people have arrived in Mogadishu seeking aid and The World Food Program executive director Josette Sheeran said Saturday they can't reach the estimated 2.2 million Somalis in desperate need of aid who are in militant-controlled areas of Somalia. (AP (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor) #

 Somalia Famine

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A general view of the Dadaab Refugee camp in eastern Kenya, where the influx of Somali's displaced by a ravaging famine remains high, on July 23, 2011. The European Union Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva has vowed to do all that is possible to help 12 million people struggling from extreme drought across the Horn of Africa, boosting aid by $40 million. The funds come on top of almost $100 million the bloc has already contributed as assistance in the worst regional drought in decades, affecting parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti and Uganda. AFP PHOTO/Tony KARUMBA #

 Somalia Famine

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A dust storm blows as newly arrived Somalian refugees settle on the edge of the Dagahaley refugee camp, which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 23, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. The refugee camp at Dadaab, located close to the Kenyan border with Somalia, was originally designed in the early 1990s to accommodate 90,000 people but the UN estimates over 4 times as many reside there. The ongoing civil war in Somalia and the worst drought to affect the Horn of Africa in six decades has resulted in an estimated 12 million people whose lives are threatened. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #

 Somalia Famine

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A Somali refugee herds goats through the IFO refugee camp, which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 24, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #

 Somalia Famine

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Warehouse attendant carry bags of goods donated during a funds drive by the Somali-community living in Kenya's capital, to aid Somali refugees in Kenya's north-easterly province at the Dadaab refugee complex, on July 29, 2011 in Nairobi. The African Union says on July 31 it will host a donors conference for Somali drought victims in Addis Ababa on August 9 as tens of thousands have died in recent months, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation. Somalia is the worst-affected country, with some 1.25 million children in need of urgent life saving care, according to UNICEF. This month, the UN declared famine in two areas of the country, the first time famine has been announced this century. AFP PHOTO / Tony KARUMBA #

 Somalia Famine

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Somalian refugees wait at the entrance to the registration area of the IFO refugee camp, which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 24, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. The refugee camp at Dadaab, located close to the Kenyan border with Somalia, was originally designed in the early 1990s to accommodate 90,000 people but the UN estimates over 4 times as many reside there. The ongoing civil war in Somalia and the worst drought to affect the Horn of Africa in six decades has resulted in an estimated 12 million people whose lives are threatened. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #

 Somalia Famine

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A Somali refugee woman holding a bag of food aid walks past those waiting at the entrance to the registration area of the IFO refugee camp which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 24, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #

 Somalia Famine

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Somali women and children wait for food to be distributed in the Doloow region, southern Somalia on July 24, 2011. The UN's World Programme Programme airlift of food for the Somali capital Mogadishu was delayed on on July 26, 2011 after efforts were hampered by last minute paperwork in Kenya. PETER MARTELL/AFP/Getty Images #

 Somalia Famine

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Somalian refugees leave their hut on the outskirts of the Dagahaley refugee camp, which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 23, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. The refugee camp at Dadaab, located close to the Kenyan border with Somalia, was originally designed in the early 1990s to accommodate 90,000 people but the UN estimates over 4 times as many reside there. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #

 Somalia Famine

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A Somalian refugee digs a latrine on the outskirts of the IFO refugee camp which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement in Dadaab, Kenya. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #

 Somalia Famine

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An elederly woman sits as she waits for food ratios at a feeding center in Lolkuta, near Wajir on July 21, 2011. The UN's World Programme Programme was preparing on July 26, 2011 to airlift food aid into the Somali capital Mogadishu, but efforts were hampered by last minute paperwork in Kenya. An estimated 3.7 million people in Somalia -- around a third of the population -- are on the brink of starvation and millions more in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda have been struck by the worst drought in the region in 60 years. SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images #

 Somalia Famine

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A Somali refugee rests on a wheelbarrow at the entrance to the registration area of the IFO refugee camp which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement in Dadaab, Kenya. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) #

 Somalia Famine

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A young boy from southern Somalia takes cover under a plastic sheet in a refugee camp in Mogadishu, Somalia, Sunday, July 31, 2011. Tens of thousands of famine-stricken Somali refugees were cold and drenched after torrential rains overnight pounded their makeshift structures in the capital, Mogadishu. Rains are needed to plant crops and alleviate the drought that is causing famine in Somalia but on Saturday night the rains added to the misery of refugees who live in structures made of sticks and pieces of cloth. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh) #

 Somalia Famine

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A doctor examines Mihag Gedi Farah, a seven- month-old child with a weight of 7.5 lbs., in a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in the town of Dadaab, Kenya. The U.N. will airlift emergency rations this week to parts of drought-ravaged Somalia that militants banned it from more than two years ago in a crisis intervention to keep hungry refugees from dying along what an official calls the "roads of death." Tens of thousands already have trekked to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, hoping to get aid in refugee camps. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam) #

 Somalia Famine

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A malnourished mentally disabled refugee from Somalia is tied down to prevent him falling out of his bed at a hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in Dadaab, Kenya, Wednesday, Aug 3, 2011. Dadaab, a camp designed for 90,000 people now houses around 440,000 refugees. Almost all are from war-ravaged Somalia. Some have been here for more than 20 years, when the country first collapsed into anarchy. But now more than 1,000 are arriving daily, fleeing fighting or hunger.(AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam) #

 Somalia Famine

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A malnourished refugee from Somalia has a blood sample taken by a doctor at a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in Dadaab, Kenya. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam) #

 Somalia Famine

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Khalif Yussuf tries to fall asleep at a field hospital of the International Rescue Committee, IRC, in Dadaab, Kenya, Monday, Aug 1, 2011. Dadaab, a camp designed for 90,000 people now houses around 440,000 refugees. Almost all are from war-ravaged Somalia. Some have been here for more than 20 years, when the country first collapsed into anarchy. But now more than 1,000 are arriving daily, fleeing fighting or hunger.(AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam) #

 Somalia Famine

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Newly arrived Somali refugees wait for medical examinations for their children at a centre at the Dadaab Refugee camp in eastern Kenya, where the influx of Somali's displaced by a ravaging famine remains high. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images #

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Targeted violence against females, dismal healthcare and desperate poverty make Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country in which to be born a woman, with Congo a close second due to horrific levels of rape. Pakistan, India and Somalia ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the global survey of perceptions of threats ranging from domestic abuse and economic discrimination to female foeticide (the destruction of a fetus in the uterus), genital mutilation and acid attack. A survey compiled by the Thomson Reuters Foundation to mark the launch of TrustLaw Woman*, puts Afghanistan at the top of the list of the most dangerous places in the world for women. TrustLaw asked 213 gender experts from five contents to rank countries by overall perceptions of danger as well as by six categories of risk. The risks consisted of health threats, sexual violence, non-sexual violence, cultural or religious factors, lack of access to resources and trafficking. The collection of images that follow were provided by Reuters to illustrate the dangers women face in those 5 countries. -- Paula Nelson (*TrustLaw Woman is a website aimed at providing free legal advice for women’s' groups around the world.) (37 photos total)
Women in Afghanistan have a near total lack of economic rights, rendering it a severe threat to its female inhabitants. An Afghan soldier uses a wooden stick to maintain order among women waiting for humanitarian aid at a World Food Programme WFP distribution point in the city of Kabul, December 14, 2001. The U.N. (WFP) started its biggest ever food distribution in the Afghan capital, handing out sacks of wheat to more than three-quarters of the war-ravaged city's population. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

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