Ethiopia calls U.S. human rights report “lies”

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia rejected on Monday a U.S. government human rights report published in February that accused security forces in the Horn of Africa nation of politically motivated killings.

The U.S. State Department 2008 human rights survey detailed cases of opposition members being killed and said citizens’ political rights were restricted through bureaucratic obstacles, intimidation and arrests by the government and ruling party.

“The State Department report is based on hearsay and lies,” Bereket Simon, the Ethiopian government’s head of information told reporters. “We fully reject it.”

Bereket said the report was based on claims from opposition parties and charities and that the Ethiopian government had not been consulted before its publication.

“We talked to Ethiopian government officials and we stand by our report,” U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto, told Reuters on Monday.

Analysts say Ethiopia has been a key U.S. ally in its fight against terrorism.

The Horn of Africa‘s biggest military power sent troops into neighboring Somalia to topple Islamists in late 2006. The Ethiopian troops withdrew earlier this year.

“This doesn’t reflect any bad relationship between us and the U.S.” said Bereket. “We welcome accurate information about possible abuses in our country.”

Opposition parties routinely accuse the government of harassment and say candidates were intimidated during local elections in April of last year. The government denies that.

Ethiopia last month jailed 46 men it accused of planning to overthrow the government through a series of assassinations and bombings. International rights groups have called on Ethiopia to name the accused and say where they are being held.

Ethiopia will hold national elections in July 2010.

(Editing by David Clarke and Richard Balmforth)