Assab (ä`səb), town (1984 pop. 32,457), Eritrea, on the Red Sea. Ethiopia's most important port before Eritrean independence (1993), it continued, through agreements with Eritrea, to handle much of Ethiopia's foreign trade until the border war with Ethiopia brought about the port's closure. The town has a petroleum refinery (1967). Once the terminus of caravans from the interior of Ethiopia, Aseb was acquired by a private Italian shipping company in 1869. In 1882 it was taken over by the Italian government, and in 1890 Aseb was included in the colony of Eritrea.