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UN expands Eritrea sanctions over Somalia

06 December 2011, 08:48

Geneve - The U.N. Security Council on Monday expanded sanctions against Eritrea for continuing to provide support to Islamist militants, including al Shabaab, in the virtually lawless Horn of Africa nation of Somalia.

The council resolution - which got 13 votes in favor, none against and two abstentions - was diluted from earlier drafts that sought to ban investment in Eritrea's mining industry and outlaw imports of its minerals. Asmara denies aiding al Shabaab or any other militant groups in Somalia.

The original draft, circulated by Gabon in October, also sought to block payment of a tax Eritrea puts on remittances from its nationals abroad.

The final version, which expands sanctions imposed two years ago, simply requires countries to make their companies involved in mining in Eritrea exercise "vigilance" to ensure funds from the sector are not used to destabilize the region.

The steps passed two years ago included an arms embargo.

Diplomats said Russia and China, both of which abstained from Monday's vote, opposed sanctioning the mining sector and remittances and that some European countries and the United States also felt the original draft was too tough and could penalize the Eritrean people.

On remittances, the resolution calls on states to act to ensure Eritrea ceases "using extortion, threats of violence, fraud and other illicit means to collect taxes outside of Eritrea from its nationals." It also "condemns" Eritrea for using a remittance tax to fund mischief in the Horn of Africa.

Eritrea is seen to be on the brink of a minerals boom that could revive its struggling economy, while remittances it gets from its large diaspora in the West and Middle East are its biggest source of foreign exchange.

The country's most advanced mining project, Bisha, believed to contain gold, copper and zinc, is run by Canada's Nevsun Resources Ltd. Earlier this year, Eritrea granted Australia's Chalice Gold Mines two new exploration licenses in a nearby location.

- Reuters

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