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Liberia should totally disengage from Sierra Leone conflict, Security Council told

Liberia should totally disengage from Sierra Leone conflict, Security Council told

In order to curtail the support to the Revolutionary United (RUF) and to maintain a lasting peace agreement in Sierra Leone, Liberia's total disengagement from the rebel group must be ensured, a panel of experts told the United Nations Security Council today.

Presenting the report of the panel, which is investigating violations of the arms embargo against Liberia, the group's chairman, Martin Chungong Ayafor of Cameroon, told the 15-member security body that implementing the experts' earlier proposals would help further the peace process in the Mano River Region, which consists of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Appointed by the Secretary-General, the Panel of Experts also investigates violations of the ban on export of Liberian diamonds and the travel ban on senior officials of the Liberian Government.

Mr. Ayafor said that when the Panel embarked upon its mandate in mid-April there were active hostilities in the Mano River region. Six months later, while there was improvement, there was still active conflict in Lofa County in Liberia and the possibility of Sierra Leone lapsing back into conflict if the RUF refused to release its hold on some of the best diamond areas, he said.

Also addressing the Council, the Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Ed Tsui, said Liberia was one of the least developed countries in the world with poor prospects for economic development. The fragile situation could be worsened if sanctions were not accompanied by increased donor response, he said, adding that the Council should take into account the effect the sanctions will have on the most vulnerable Liberian people.

Monie R. Captan, Liberia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the experts' report was void of any substantive relevance, and covered activities that preceded the adoption of resolution 1343, which imposed the sanctions. It did not address in any meaningful way the question of compliance by the Government nor did it concentrate on the measurable progress made to achieve the objectives of the resolution, he said.

During today's discussion, several speakers sought clarification about press reports of connections between Usama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization and the illicit diamond trade in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Mr. Ayafor said this issue had only surfaced at the UN after 11 September. While the Panel had not investigated the presence of Al Qaeda, it had detailed the activities of one individuals mentioned in connection with Al Qaeda. The Panel would further investigate the links if the Council wished, he added.