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Upcoming elections key milestone in Sierra Leone peace process, Security Council says

Upcoming elections key milestone in Sierra Leone peace process, Security Council says

Security Council members today agreed that the upcoming elections in Sierra Leone were an important milestone in the country's peace process, and signalled their intention to adopt a resolution clarifying the role of the United Nations mission, known as UNAMSIL, during the balloting.

Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius, who currently chairs the 15-nation body, said in a press statement that while elections were primarily the responsibility of the Government of Sierra Leone and the National Electoral Commission, Council members agreed that UNAMSIL had an important supporting role to play.

"They welcomed the Secretary-General's recommendations for UNAMSIL's role in the elections; to provide support with security, logistics, monitoring, public information and the co-ordination of election observers," Ambassador Koonjul said, referring to a recent report by the UN leader, Kofi Annan.

Council members stressed the importance of regional stability and encouraged high-level contacts within the Mano River Union for improving relations between the countries of the region, and underlined the importance of adequate resources for the reintegration of ex-combatants, Ambassador Koonjul said.

They also expressed their deep regret at the death of six Zambian peacekeepers on 5 January, and offered their condolences to the Government and people of Zambia. The troops were killed in an accidental explosion involving ammunition surrendered previously by ex-combatants in Sierra Leone’s civil war.

The statement followed a closed-door briefing by the head of UNAMSIL, Oluyemi Adeniji, who presented the Secretary-General's report on the Mission and updated Council members on the latest developments, including the end of the disarmament process. During the exercise, the UN Mission collected weapons from 46,346 combatants.

Mr. Adeniji also discussed plans for the elections scheduled for May as well as the current UN planning mission on setting up a Special Court to try war criminals.