Eritrea rows with Canada over visa refusal

Thu Sep 11, 2008 2:55pm EDT
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By Jack Kimball

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Eritrea on Thursday condemned Canada's refusal to grant its foreign minister a visa on the grounds that he took part in the Red Sea state's 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia.

The conflict which led to independence in 1991 has taken on mythic proportions for many Eritreans.

"The Government of Eritrea strongly condemns this hostile act and expressly requests the Canadian authorities to rectify this outrageous conduct," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on state-run Web site

The government also posted a letter from Canada's embassy in Kenya, which said Osman Saleh's involvement in the 1961-1991 war with Addis Ababa had prevented him from getting a visa.

"You were a member of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front between 1979 and 1991. The EPLF was a group that engaged in the subversion of a government by force," the letter said.

"Canadian Federal Court jurisprudence confirms that membership in a group that attempts to subvert even a despotic government is sufficient to render inadmissibility," it added.

Canadian officials in Nairobi were not immediately available for comment.

Some Western nations have been slow to take Cold War-era African rebels off their old terrorist lists. In June, U.S. lawmakers finally erased "terrorist" references to South Africa's Nelson Mandela.   Continued...