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Security Council urged to rethink Liberia sanctions in light of regional violence

Security Council urged to rethink Liberia sanctions in light of regional violence

A United Nations Security Council expert panel has returned from a three-month investigation in West Africa - a volatile region "awash in weapons" - convinced that perhaps sanctions against Liberia alone are not sufficient, when rebels and governments in as many as five neighbouring countries share responsibility for the region's spiralling violence and chaos.

"The basis for the imposition of the sanctions against Liberia needs to be reassessed because violence and conflict are spreading across the region and are generated not only by Liberian forces," the Security Council's independent expert panel investigating compliance with international sanctions levied against Monrovia concludes in a report released at UN Headquarters in New York today.

"A comprehensive new approach by the Security Council to the situation in all of West Africa is required," states the report, which paints a picture of violence and one-upmanship - fuelled by illegal arms and gem trading - in which even Liberian President Charles Taylor admits to violating the arms embargo and banditry and lawlessness have become a way of life among the regions' youth.

The panel found that Liberia is still violating the arms embargo, stressing that violence inside the country this year has escalated "to the point where no Liberian today can claim not to be affected by it." Revenue-generating projects have ground to a halt and some are even being abandoned. Poor governance, corruption and insecurity have ensured that there has been no significant investment in recent years.

On the humanitarian front, the panel notes that in recent months many humanitarian agencies have withdrawn most of their staff because of the widening conflict and because the Government is unable and unwilling to provide for the basic needs of Liberians.

The report also notes that the ongoing conflict has spilled over into Sierra Leone, Guinea and now Côte d'Ivoire, posing a new threat to the region as a whole. The report details the ways Monrovia and rival armed rebel groups continue to violate the UN arms embargo, through a network of Serbian arms dealers, Chinese timber companies and fake documents. Some of the same companies, the panel says, have delivered weapons to neighbouring countries.

The panel makes a number of observations and recommendations regarding violations of the arms embargo, control of diamonds, government accounting and civil aviation in Liberia and in the sub-region. It notes that to prevent Liberia from further decay, international assistance to reorganize its revenue system is required.