Conflicting Reports Issued Over Ethiopia Filling Mega-dam

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Ethiopia began filling the reservoir of its giant Nile dam without signing an agreement on water flows, the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp. reported, citing Water, Irrigation and Energy Minister Seleshi Bekele -- a step Egypt has warned will threaten regional security.

The minister denied the report, the Associated Press said.

The development comes two days after the latest round of African Union-brokered talks over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam failed to reach a deal on the pace of filling the 74 billion cubic-meter reservoir. Egypt, which relies on the Nile for almost all its fresh water, has previously described any unilateral filling as a breach of international agreements and has said all options are open in response.

Egypt is asking Ethiopia for urgent and official clarification of the media reports, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Sudan’s irrigation ministry said in a statement that flows on the Nile indicated that Ethiopia had closed the dam’s gate.

Ethiopia, where the 6,000-megawatt power project has become a symbol of national pride, has repeatedly rejected the idea that a deal was needed, even as it took part in talks.

“The inflow into the reservoir is due to heavy rainfall and runoff exceeded the outflow and created natural pooling,” Seleshi said later in Twitter posting, without expressly denying that the filling of the dam had begun. Calls to the ministry’s spokesperson for comment weren’t answered.

The filling of the dam would potentially bring to a head a roughly decade-long dispute between the two countries, both of which are key U.S. allies in Africa and home to about 100 million people. Their mutual neighbor, Sudan, has also been involved in the discussions and echoed Egypt’s misgivings over an impact on water flows.

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