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Absorption Minister Denies Reports on Condition of Jews in Ethiopia

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Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz claimed Sunday that news reports of harsh conditions endured by Ethiopian Jews waiting to come to Israel are inaccurate and excessively downbeat.

Nevertheless, Israel will send a doctor to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to look after the would-be emigrants, many of whom are reported to be seriously ill, Israel Radio reported.

The doctor will work out of the Israel Embassy. Two large tents arc being sent to facilitate health and other services for the Ethiopian Jews, Israel Radio said.

Peretz said the Jewish people are doing “everything possible” to help those waiting to immigrate. He insisted, however, that these efforts should not be publicized in detail.

Peretz spoke after the weekly meeting of the Absorption Cabinet, the ministerial committee established to coordinate immigration and absorption. The committee is chaired by Minister of Construction and Housing Ariel Sharon.

One of the big problems discussed here and abroad has been the thousands of Jews, perhaps as many as 15,000, stranded in Addis Ababa. They have poured into the capital, mainly from the impoverished Gondar province, to await transportation to Israel.

But as their wait lengthened, their condition has been said to have deteriorated for lack of food and shelter and the ravages of disease.

Their emigration, which had been proceeding since last fall at a rate of about 500 a month, slowed down appreciably recently.

The reason was alleged to have been the Ethiopian government’s retaliation for Israel’s refusal to provide it with cluster bombs to use against Eritrean separatists and rebels from Tigre province.

But the Ethiopian foreign minister, Tesfaye Dinka, said Thursday at a news conference in Washington that the problem had nothing to do with weaponry, attributing the reported drop of Jewish emigration to joint Ethiopian-Israeli efforts to weed out non-Jews attempting to flee to Israel.

Meanwhile, a group of Ethiopian Jews demonstrated outside the Cabinet office building Sunday, demanding more energetic measures to hasten the reunion of their families.

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