Some residents ventured out for the first time since street battles erupted this past week between police and opposition protesters. At least 42 people were killed.

Girma Teshome, a 30-year-old engineer buying food at an Addis Ababa market, said he feared violence could flare again.

"It is quiet now but it may start again after some time," he told Reuters. "It could be quiet for a month then erupt again."

Outside the capital

Isolated cases of violence continued on Saturday in one northern town, diplomats told AFP.

There were no fatalities in the sporadic skirmishes that continued to rock Debre Berhan town, about 150km (93 miles) north of Addis Ababa, the diplomats said.

Witnesses said calm had returned to Bahar Dar town, about 400km (250 miles) northwest of the capital. On Friday, four people were killed and 11 wounded in Bahar Dar.

Shots were heard overnight in the Mercato district of Addis Ababa where police carried out more arrests, other diplomats told AFP.

Prime Minster Meles Zenawi (R)
blamed the opposition

The latest violence began in the capital, a stronghold of opposition groups who accuse Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of rigging his way back to power in polls in May.

Most shops in the capital remained shut on Saturday, but a few residents were out.

"The government is preaching democracy but it doesn't know anything about democracy," 24-year-old banker Senaye Lema told Reuters.  

"They lost power through elections, but they are hanging on through the gun...They only know how to rule through gunfire. They are preaching false democracy."

Public address

In his first public declaration on Friday, Meles blamed the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), whose top leaders have been arrested, for the violence.

"The CUD is responsible for the damage and loss of life that has occurred in the capital in the last three days," Meles said on state television.

The CUD has become increasingly vocal in its claims that 15 May elections were rigged by Meles's ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolution Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition.

The party, which officially won 109 of about 370 parliamentary seats in the polls, is boycotting the legislature, and its deputies last month were stripped of parliamentary immunity amid allegations of plotting to overthrow the government.

A woman receives treatment this
past week in Addis Ababa

The unrest has fuelled fears of a relapse into authoritarian rule in the Horn of Africa's main power, prompting Washington, the European Union and the African Union to urge government and opposition to show restraint.

The disturbances have coincided with fresh tension with neighbouring Eritrea, Ethiopia's foe in a 1998-2000 border war.

UN peacekeepers have warned that military moves by both countries had produced a crisis requiring urgent attention.

The government has also begun a press clampdown following the violence, with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) saying Ethiopian authorities have detained two editors and ordered private newspapers to close.