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On eve of Sierra Leone elections, Annan calls ballot ‘important milestone’

On eve of Sierra Leone elections, Annan calls ballot ‘important milestone’

UN Peacekeepers help prepare for elections in Sierra Leone
With Sierra Leoneans poised to choose their country’s president and parliament, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed tomorrow’s ballot as an “important milestone” in the peace process and urged all voters to take an active part in it.

A spokesman for the Secretary-General said in a statement issued today in New York that Mr. Annan called on all eligible Sierra Leoneans to exercise their right to vote in the spirit of “peace and tolerance,” and wished them every success in rebuilding their country.

“He commends the Government of Sierra Leone, the National Electoral Commission and the political parties for the resolute efforts they have undertaken, with the full support of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), to make the elections possible,” the statement said.

In resolution 1389 adopted in January, the UN Security Council gave UNAMSIL wide-ranging security tasks for the May elections, stressing that holding them freely, fairly and transparently was vital to long-term stability in the country. The Council authorized UNAMSIL to undertake election-related tasks as set out by the Secretary-General in his report of 13 December 2001.

Those tasks include logistic support to the National Electoral Commission as well as the provision of wider security and deterrence throughout the period of preparation for

the elections, the polling period itself, and the period immediately after the announcement of the election results. The Mission was in part mandated to assist in the transport of electoral materials and personnel, especially to hard-to-reach areas, and to facilitate the free movement of people, goods and humanitarian assistance throughout the country.

Through the statement today, the Secretary-General also expressed his gratitude to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), donor countries and organizations that have provided “valuable assistance” to the electoral process.