Aid payments to be withdrawn by UK following violence in Ethiopia

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The UK has suspended £30m ($54m) of aid payments to Ethiopia following the deaths of 36 people in protests over disputed elections.

The UK Development Minister, Hillary Benn, announced the move after talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa.

Benn said that Ethiopia should allow the Red Cross access to detainees, and that they either be charged or released.

Ethiopia has said it has started releasing people, but has not provided figures on the number imprisoned. Opposition groups estimate the number to be 3,600.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair telephoned Zenawi on Sunday to express his concern at the shootings. Ethiopia has stated that it has begun releasing many of those arrested during the protests, however, Human Rights Watch says those being held are at risk of abuse.

On Tuesday, Ethiopia's leaders signed a declaration to try to end violence and launch an investigation into election complaints.