Ethiopia's prime minister blames opposition

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi blamed the opposition and the international community for a political crisis that has seen scores killed and jailed since elections a year ago.

Meles, in an interview with the British newspaper The Times published Monday, said the opposition was encouraged by mixed signals from the international community and hoped to topple him.

"They miscalculated," the Times quoted Meles as saying in an interview Sunday. "Ethiopia is not a spineless, corrupt ex-Soviet rump. Ethiopia is not Ukraine."

Fraud-plagued elections in Ukraine in 2004 sparked demonstrations that helped bring President Viktor Yushchenko. Monday was the first anniversary of Ethiopian elections that returned Meles to power, but that international observers had called seriously flawed.

Violence that erupted during several protests over the elections has left more than 88 people dead over the past year. In violence last week that could point to growing militant opposition to the government, nine bombs exploded across Ethiopia's capital, killing four people and injuring more than 42 others. Police said it was a coordinated attempt to discredit the government, but there was no claim of responsibility.

In a case stemming from the protests, 111 independent journalists, opposition leaders and aid workers were standing trial for treason and attempted genocide, charges that could bring life in prison or death. London-based human rights group Amnesty International has called the defendants "prisoners of conscience who have not used or advocated violence."

In January, Britain cut all of its aid to Ethiopia's government and redirected the 50 million pounds (US$87 million; Ђ 73 million) to humanitarian agencies or local governments because of concerns about the central government's handling of the unrest sparked by the election.

Meles, in the interview, denied accusations the elections were stolen and rejected criticism his security forces overreacted to the political unrest.

"Whoever violates law in Ethiopia, no matter how powerful, will be held accountable," he said, reports the AP.

I.L.