Eritrea on Friday rejected fresh UN allegations that it is the main arms supplier to Islamist insurgents in Somalia in violation of a 15-year UN embargo and demanded to see the evidence.
In a report to the Security Council, a UN panel of independent experts described Eritrea as "the principal clandestine source and conduit for arms supplies" to the Somali Islamist insurgents engaged in guerrilla warfare with Ethiopian-backed government troops.
The experts said they had "observed a clear pattern of involvement by the government of Eritrea in arms embargo violations" and concluded Eritrean capital Asmara "has made deliberate attempts to hide its activities and mislead the international community about its involvement."
They said Asmara tried to cover its tracks through creation of business front companies, use of different existing or legitimate, airline companies, "filing of false flight plans indicating flight to third countries that never took place and the unauthorized use of registration numbers and call signs."
Asmara rejected the latest UN allegations as "a big lie" designed to mask UN failure to halt the war in Somalia and active US involvement that critics blame for fanning bloodletting.
"These allegations are not new and we know where they are coming from. The UN is acting as a megaphone of the United States," said Ali Abdu, Eritrean Information Minister. "These allegations are aimed at fabricating a pretext for the Ethiopian and American invasion of Somalia, and the massacre of the Somalia people."
The report also accused Ethiopian troops of using white phosphorous bombs against the Islamists in an April 13 battle that left 15 insurgents and 35 civilians dead. Apparently was not an isolated incident.
The UN report, covering the period from last November to late June this year, said that Somalia "is literally awash with arms," more so that at any time since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Siad Barre that plunged the country into instability.
Earlier this year, Ethiopia-backed Somali government troops ousted an Islamist militia which had briefly taken control of large parts of the country on the Horn of Africa.
The insurgents have since launched almost daily guerrilla attacks against the Somali transitional government, as well as the Ethiopian and Africa Union troops protecting it.
The UN report warned that although the rebels have lost a portion of their arsenal, they "have considerably more hidden in caches for future use."
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