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Sierra Leone is turning a page and moving towards peace: Annan

Sierra Leone is turning a page and moving towards peace: Annan

The positive developments in Sierra Leone over the past eight weeks constitute grounds for "cautious optimism" that the country is on the path towards long-awaited peace, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a report released today at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the work of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), the Secretary-General calls upon the leadership of the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), as well as the Freetown Government, to continue to work resolutely towards peace.

The report notes, however, that considerable efforts need to be made to maintain the recently achieved momentum. "In particular, the United Nations must remain vigilant and continue its efforts to establish security throughout the country," he writes.

In that context, Mr. Annan warns that, following UNAMSIL deployment in diamond-producing regions, the establishment of State authority in those areas will be a particular challenge. "I urge the Government to give this issue its full attention in order to avoid the serious consequences that could result from a possible surge in uncontrolled diamond mining," he writes.

Stressing the importance of the country's disarmament programme to the overall peace process, including the creation of conditions conducive for elections, the report urges Sierra Leonean authorities and international partners to move demobilization activities forward, and calls on donors to contribute funds to those efforts. It warns that, once certain areas are opened up as a result of the disarmament process, it will be crucial for the Freetown Government to extend its administration throughout the country.

Meanwhile, the security situation in the subregion remains "difficult," the Secretary-General says, urging again for the countries of the Mano River Union to start a political dialogue to restore stability to the area, which would allow the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees to "return to their places of origin and resume their lives in peace."

In terms of law and order, the report which covers the period since mid-March 2001, states that UNAMSIL could play an enhanced role in providing training and advice to Sierra Leonean law enforcement officials. To that end, the Secretary-General intends to bring the civilian police component of the UN mission to its authorized strength of 60 police advisers.