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Sierra Leonean rebel group pledges to cooperate with UN peace operation

Sierra Leonean rebel group pledges to cooperate with UN peace operation

The Sierra Leonean rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has assured a visiting top-level United Nations official of its desire to cooperate with the peacekeeping operation in the country to further the peace process.

The UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) said today in a statement that the RUF's pledge had been made during a brief meeting with Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette. The meeting took place on Friday in Lunsar, a town formerly held by the RUF, where UNAMSIL has recently deployed.

During her meeting with members of the RUF High Command, including Col. Jonathan Kposowa, RUF Chief of Administration and RUF spokesman Gibril Massaquoi. Ms. Fréchette stressed that the RUF must match its words with deeds, and provide "concrete evidence day after day" that it was committed to implementing the Abuja Ceasefire Agreement. She urged the RUF to dismantle its three checkpoints between Rogberi and Lunsar to demonstrate its commitment.

Ms. Fréchette also toured UNAMSIL's deployment in Lunsar, and met with the local population and traditional leaders, who appeared "happy with the presence of UNAMSIL, which seems to have already, after a few weeks, established a climate of security that I am told did not exist before," the Deputy Secretary-General told a press conference on her return to Freetown.

En route to Lunsar, which is 80 kilometres east of Freetown, Ms. Fréchette visited the Bangladeshi Battalion stationed at Lungi airport and the town of Petifu Junction, where UN agencies are assisting a large number of returnees fleeing the fighting in Guinea.

On Friday, the Deputy Secretary-General was also briefed by senior UNAMSIL officials on the political and military situation, the disarmament process, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and public information activities. She then met with representatives of local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on progress in the peace process and on ways of improving coordination and cooperation between the NGOs and the UN.