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Ethiopian strongman Mengistu Haile Mariam awarded his country's top...

MOSCOW -- Ethiopian strongman Mengistu Haile Mariam awarded his country's top honor to Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev Monday at a ceremony in the Kremlin.

The ceremony came on the first day of an official visit, which included talks between Mengistu and top Soviet officials.

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Soviet Premier Nikolai Tikhonov made his first public appearance in his new job when he greeted Mengistu on his arrival.

A report by the Tass news agency said Ethiopian and Soviet leaders congratulated Brezhnev on his award of 'The Star of Honor of Socialist Ethiopia.'

The two countries have been closely linked since Mengistu's rise to power after the ouster of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1975.

'The Soviet Union seeks no special rights or privileges for itself in Africa or on other continents,' Brezhnev said at the ceremony.

'We would like to see peace and accord reign there so that all the people of Africa may enjoy the boons of freedom and become a master of the wealth of its land, and that the roots of racism and apartheid be eradicated in every corner of Africa,' he said.

At the ceremony, Mengistu thanked the Soviet Union for providing aid to Ethiopia and called Brezhnev 'an outstanding leader of the great Soviet people.'

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