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The U. S. Ambassador to Ethiopia, Donald Yamamoto, says the release of 32 Ethiopian opposition members who had been detained in Ethiopia since post-election violence in 2005, provides “a great opportunity” for the country to move forward towards reconciliation and political reform. The opposition members were the second group of opposition figures released since July. Another 38 were freed last month after receiving life sentences.

In an interview Thursday with VOA’s Addisu Abebe, the ambassador commended both the elders who were involved in negotiating the release and the Meles government, saying it is the start for reconciliation and will move the country forward as it heads toward both local elections next year and the 2010 national elections. Ambassador Yamamoto encouraged the elders to continue their mediation efforts. He stressed that it is an Ethiopian process and that the role for the United States and other governments is to encourage and support it.

Earlier, a written statement from the U.S. State Department expressed the belief the prisoner release "will promote continued political dialogue" and said the United States "stands ready to support and encourage all parties towards democratic openness."

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