The Government of Sierra Leone has made progress towards meeting the benchmarks for the withdrawal of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a new report to the Security Council in which he recommends extending the mission's mandate until the end of the year.
"However, the last infantry battalion and air assets should remain fully operational until the end of November, by which time the results of the elections in Liberia will be known," he says.
The elections are scheduled for October 2005.
With the local and provincial councils beginning to function and police deployment advancing, the Government has increased its control over the diamond-mining sector and is increasing revenues from its exports, he says.
"The situation in Sierra Leone remains fragile, however, and much remains to be done to address the underlying causes of the conflict in the country, in order to attain durable stability and long-term national recovery," Mr. Annan says.
The strengthening of the security sector needs special long-term attention, he says. In this regard, the national troops and police are having serious shortfalls of equipment. "I would like to appeal once again to donors to consider contributing generously towards the urgently needed assistance for the Sierra Leonean security sector," he says.
At the June meeting of the Consultative Group, including international financial institutions (IFIs), the Government should outline programmes of action in such areas as reform, institutional capacity-building, reducing high youth unemployment and combating corruption, he says.