Ethiopian Prime Minister dies

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Picture: AFP"

ETHIOPIA - Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has died, Ethiopian state television reported on Tuesday.

Meles had not been seen in several weeks.

The government said in July that he was taking a break to recover from an unspecified condition.

State television said Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will be acting Prime Minister.

Rumours that Meles was seriously ill have been rife since the former guerrilla leader had failed to attend an African Union summit in Addis Ababa last month.

Ethiopia's government said last month that Meles was taking a break to recover from an unspecified condition.

Diplomats in Addis Ababa had said Meles was being treated in Brussels, Belgium from an undisclosed illness, while others said he was in Germany.

Meles has been in power since ousting Mengistu Haile Mariam's military junta in 1991.

He served as president from 1991 to 1995, when he became Prime Minister.

He won praise in the West for helping spur economic growth and for his army's support against al Qaeda-linked militants in neighboring Somalia.

But he also has been accused of crushing dissent, using national security concerns as an excuse to silence opposition figures and journalists. The government has dismissed those accusations.