ETHIOPIA: Appointment in Asmara

For decades, the "empire" of Ethiopia has really been nothing more than a collection of disparate feuding fiefdoms held together by the military power of deposed Emperor Haile Selassie and the aristocratic Amhara tribe of the Central Highlands. Last week, as fighting flared across the northern province of Eritrea, the old empire appeared to be on the verge of civil war and perhaps of actual disintegration.

The center of the battle was the palm-fringed city of Asmara, Eritrea's capital, which was rocked by mortar, bazooka and howitzer fire as rebel commandos attacked army and navy installations. One exchange caught...

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