UN Security Council adjusts sanctions against Liberia

22 December 2003
UN Security Council in session

Responding to recent changes in Liberia, where a transitional government has been established, the United Nations Security Council today adjusted its embargoes against the West African country, especially its ban on timber and diamond exports and war materiel imports.

Unanimously adopting a two-part resolution, the Council decided that the measures would remain in effect until peace is maintained, export transparency is established and the government controls the national forests.

It noted that "the changed circumstances in Liberia, in particular the departure of former President Charles Taylor and the formation of the National Transitional Government of Liberia, and progress with the peace process in Sierra Leone" made new Council action necessary.

In approving the detailed sanctions resolution, the Council called on all States to prevent the sale or supply to the Liberian Government or the rebel groups "by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types."

It demanded that all West African countries "take action to prevent armed individuals and groups from using their territory to prepare and commit attacks on neighbouring countries."

The Council decided to lift this sanction when it determines that "the ceasefire in Liberia is being fully respected and maintained, [and] disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and restructuring of the security sector have been completed."

All States should prevent the direct or indirect imports of rough diamonds from or passing through Liberia, while Liberia should take steps to join the Kimberley Process of diamond certification in order to have the ban lifted, the resolution said.

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme of 2000 is designed to protect the legitimate diamond industry by stopping the marketing of what are known as "conflict diamonds," the rough gems traded by rebels or their allies to finance violence. This initiative now governs diamond production and importation in 70 countries.

The Council said all States must also prevent the importation of Liberian round logs and timber, but this sanction would end when timber revenues are no longer being used to fuel conflict but rather "for legitimate purposes for the benefit of the Liberian people, including development."

A Security Council committee and a Liberian review committee will track progress towards lifting the sanctions, while a five-member panel of experts, to be named by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will report to the Council by 30 May 2004 on violations, progress made and the socio-economic impact of the measures.

Addressing journalists before the vote, Mr. Annan's Special Representative, Jacques Klein, said the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) faces severe time constraints, with only two years to accomplish several important tasks, including organizing elections and taking the country's first census in some 30 to 40 years.

A donors' conference is planned for New York next February to raise $200 million to repair the basic infrastructure in Liberia, which has 85 per cent unemployment and the highest child mortality rate in Africa, Mr. Klein said.

Ex-President Charles Taylor had not paid government workers for three years, thereby driving people to corruption and other crimes, but that was being corrected, he added, and qualified ex-combatants would have their way paid through local high schools and the local colleges.


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