Talks between Ethiopia's ruling party and opposition set to begin

Addis Ababa (dpa) - Taxi and mini-bus operators began operating running again Monday ending a six-day strike that paralysed transportation in Addis Ababa following alleged fraud in the country's general elections.

The ruling party and two main opposition parties are poised to begin talks later Monday to end their dispute.

Shops, private businesses and factories have reopened. The three political parties contesting the elections signed an agreement Friday declaring their commitment to end their standoff and abide by National Electoral Commission rules and failing that, in the court of law.

Their claims and counter claims over the May 15 national and regional elections sparked widespread demonstrations across Ethiopia culminating in fierce clashes between police and demonstrating youths last Wednesday. Twenty-eight people died and several others were injured in the clashes.

The European Union brokered the agreement and had secured the consent of the parties to meet Monday to implement it. They failed to begin talks with the Electoral Commission at the weekend, when the government demanded that the opposition parties withdraw preconditions.

The head of the E.U. delegation in Ethiopia, Ambassador Tim Clark said Friday that it was the only ''constructive way for moving forward from the prevailing impasse in the country''.

The two parties, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and the United Ethiopian Democratic Force (UEDF), had agreed with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi'S EPRDF party to cooperate with the National Electoral Board and investigate complaints about irregularities in the election results of 299 constituencies.

But the CUD later said it would be difficult to abide by the agreement without the release of its members and supporters. The government had detained them when it became clear that the ruling party was losing the elections.

The CUD demanded the release of top coalition executives including its chairman Hailu Shawul and executive committee member Lidetu Ayalew, who have been under house arrest since last week.

The CUD told reporters Sunday that it had withdrawn its preconditions and was ready to join the talks.

Official elections results have been postponed from June 8 to July July 8.

The E.U. mission that monitored the third multi-party general elections in Ethiopia is helping the Electoral Board verify the complaints. dpa gh pb


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