Security Council backs gradual pullout of UN peacekeepers from Sierra Leone

Security Council backs gradual pullout of UN peacekeepers from Sierra Leone

Backing Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendation for a gradual withdrawal of United Nations peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, the Security Council today agreed that the rate of evacuation should take into account the capacity of the country's police and army to maintain security.

Council members "welcomed the role played by the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in maintaining stability" in the conflict-torn country, the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Mamady Traoré of Guinea said in a press statement. In addition, members "decided to consider a resolution extending the mandate of UNAMSIL for a period of six months, to be adopted next week."

The statement came after the Council met to consider a report submitted by Mr. Annan on the situation in Sierra Leone and the role of UNAMSIL, which noted "considerable shortcomings" in the country's armed and law enforcement forces. The Secretary-General said it would prudent to pursue a gradual drawdown of the UN mission. He also stressed that the security of Sierra Leone could not be fully ensured while conflict in Liberia persists.

"The members of the Council reiterated their concern at the destabilizing impact of the conflict in Liberia on the subregion, and on Sierra Leone in particular," the President of the Council said. "They called on the Liberian Government and Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to initiate a direct dialogue with a view to a peaceful settlement of their dispute."

Ambassador Traoré also said Council members invited countries to make generous contributions for the financing of the UN's reintegration and civilian training programmes in Sierra Leone.