Rep. Benjamin Gilman's Jan. 3 op-ed column on the need for Ethiopia to accept the peace proposal by the Organization of African Unity and endorsed by the United States was timely. The intransigence of Ethiopia defies reason.

It is time for the international community, and especially the United States, to compel Ethiopia to accept the only rational and humane option on the table: the peaceful resolution of the problem through international law.

Up to this point Ethiopia has acted with impunity, for example, in deporting more than 60,000 people of Eritrean origin and confiscating their properties and refusing pleas for peace from the international community. I hope Ambassador Richard Holbrooke can bring to bear the considerable influence that the United States has with both governments on behalf of the ordinary people of both countries who have the most to lose from yet another senseless war.

YEMANE ASMEROM

Albuquerque, N.M.

Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman's op-ed column, "Ethiopia Needs a Push Toward Peace," blamed Ethiopian intransigence for the absence of peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

But in 1991, Eritrean insurgents were allowed to secede from Ethiopia through a deal brokered by the United States. The two communities that were tied together by so many threads were made to separate in order to punish Ethiopia for flirting with the Soviet Union in the post-Haile Selassie period. The separation of Eritrea made Ethiopia landlocked, consigning it to poverty and dependence. Lacking in resources to maintain a viable state, the Eritrean government was supported by the resources it was able to siphon from Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian rulers who owe their rise to power partly to the support from the Eritrean insurgents carried this burden for seven years. When this proved to be too costly and they showed some reluctance, the Eritrean government carried out the invasion in May 1998.

The congressman overlooked this and blamed the victim. U.S. interests cannot be served by undermining Ethiopia's viability and alienating 60 million Ethiopians.

SHUMET SISHAGNE

Newport News, Va.