Citing Liberia's "active support" of rebel groups which are having a destabilizing effect on West Africa, the United Nations Security Council today renewed sanctions against that country, extending the measures to include a ban on timber exports in addition to existing arms and diamond embargoes.
The resolution, adopted unanimously, continues the arms, diamond and travel sanctions for another 12 months. The Council initially approved the measures in May 2001, after determining that President Charles Taylor's government had helped the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone fight the government there, and renewed them last May.
The new ban on timber exports begins on 7 July and will run for 10 months, but the Council will review the sanctions by 7 September to consider how best to minimize their impact on the country's humanitarian situation and could allow exports to resume to fund relief programmes. The ban was prompted, according to the text, because the Government has not shown that revenue from the timber industry "is used for legitimate social, humanitarian and development purposes."
The measures would also be terminated immediately if the Council, based on information received from various sources, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), determined that the Government had complied with its demand. The Council stressed its readiness to grant exemptions from travel restrictions in cases where travel would assist in the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the sub-region.
The Council's action today follows consultations with its Panel of Experts on Liberia's compliance with international sanctions thus far. The Panel's three-month investigation in West Africa revealed that the country's ongoing conflict has spilled over into Sierra Leone, Guinea and now Côte d'Ivoire, threatening the region as a whole. According to the experts, Monrovia and rival rebel groups continue to violate the UN arms embargo, through a network of Serbian arms dealers, Chinese timber companies and fake documents.
The text expresses "serious concern" at the Panel's findings and determines that the "active support provided by the Government of Liberia to armed rebel groups in the region - including rebel groups in Côte d'Ivoire and former RUF combatants who continue to destabilize the region, constitutes a threat to international peace and security."
The Council also reiterated its demand that all States in the region cease military support for armed groups in neighbouring countries and refrain from any actions that might contribute to further destabilization of the situation in the region. It declared its readiness to consider ways of promoting compliance with that demand.
Deeply concerned by the deteriorating humanitarian situation, widespread human rights violations and prevailing insecurity, the Council called on all States in the region to participate actively in regional peace initiatives. It called on Monrovia and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group to begin bilateral ceasefire talks under the auspices of the ECOWAS and former President Abdulsalami Abubakar of Nigeria.
Reiterating its call on the Government to establish an effective Certificate of Origin for its diamonds, the Council decided that rough diamonds controlled through such a Certificate of Origin regime would be exempt from the export prohibition.
The Council also requested Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish, within three months, another Panel of Experts to conduct a follow-up assessment mission to Liberia and neighbouring States in order to investigate Liberia's compliance with Council demands, to review the Government's budgetary system, and to examine the role of the timber industry in embargo violations.