Ethiopia says no rebel risk to Ogaden oil search

October 1st, 2009 | by addis portal |

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia sought on Thursday to reassure international firms exploring for oil and gas in its volatile Ogaden region that rebels were no longer active there.

Last month, the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) — which attacked a Chinese-run field in 2007, killing 74 people — warned corporations seeking hydrocarbons to halt their work in what it said was a war zone.

“The so-called rebel warning against corporations engaged in exploration in the Ogaden is a falsehood. The ONLF has no capacity to threaten or attack facilities,” Minister of Mines and Energy Alemayehu Tegenu said in a statement.

“Following security measures taken by the National Defense Force, the so-called ONLF does not exist any more and cannot be considered a security risk,” he said, reiterating Addis Ababa’s stand that the group has been defeated.

Ethiopian forces launched an assault against the rebels — who have been fighting for more than 20 years — after the attack on an exploration field owned by a subsidiary of Sinopec, China’s biggest refiner and petrochemicals producer.

Even Petronas, the state-owned Malaysian company which has received direct ONLF threats in the past, was continuing its exploratory activity, Alemayehu said.

More than a dozen international firms are hunting for oil and gas in the horn of Africa country which is keen to attract foreign investment.

“No one has left locations in the Ogaden, work is continuing and there are no security problems in the area,” Alemayehu said.

The ONLF rebels say they are fighting for self-determination for their home region, an arid land of mainly nomadic herders, but the government considers them a terrorist group supported by arch-foe Eritrea to destabilise the region.

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