Britain Wants Screws Tightened on Taylor
December 22, 2000

With UN report calling for tough sanctions against Liberia, British Foreign Office Minister for Africa, Peter Hain, has urged that the current arms embargo on Liberia to be "maintained and tightened and strengthened".

Hain's call comes after a UN report indicting President Taylor for the war in neighboring Sierra Leone. The UN Panel of Experts, following investigation of Liberia's complicity in the war, recommended sanctions on air travel to the country, along with banning of its gold, diamonds and timber. The Panel said Mr. Taylor's links to diamonds for gun regime in Sierra Leone was "overwhelming."

The Clinton administration also wants to implement tougher sanction before January. The Americans have already imposed travel ban on President Charles Taylor, his family and officials for Liberia's alleged links in the Sierra Leone war which has left tens of thousands children and other amputated.

Mr. Hain said it is important "to make sure that President Taylor is not able to continue supplying the rebels in effectively orchestrating this war, which is unfortunately what he's been doing." He added that, "Unless we can stop this, and stop the flow of diamonds outward that finances it all, then we will have a war going on forever."

The British Minister said, "If we can do that on the one hand, and if we can stop arms dealers such as those that have been named in the United Nations report, then I think we're in the position to start really changing the whole trajectory of this brutalising conflict."

President Taylor has been accused by many organizations and countries for fuelling the Sierra Leone War launched from Liberian territory in 1991. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice, told US Congress recently that:

"...As long as the conflict continues, there is a risk that it will spill over even more dramatically into neighboring countries and create more instability and human suffering. Liberia has been involved in this conflict almost from the beginning, and now Guinea is victim to cross-border incursions by RUF elements and their allies. This has led to increased domestic instability within Guinea, which is already hosting nearly half a million refugees from both Sierra Leone and Liberia. An estimated 5,000 of these refugees have crossed into Guinea since renewed violence erupted in May".

Mr. Taylor has however denounced the UN report. He denied having foreign bank accounts. He said the Liberian "revolution" is his life, and that whatever he has is in the country, which is now without water, electricity, or dependable communication. The country's only viable hospital closed down last week.

But The Financial Times, in a story this year, said Western intelligence sources were monitoring a foreign bank account through which Taylor was paying his war debts to Libya's Col. Ghaddafi. The paper also listed Taylor's earning at $2.8b. A Canadian research group, in a report published in 1999, said the Liberian president was profiting from Sierra Leone's diamonds.

Meanwhile, the Liberian government this week staged a demonstration to protest the UN report and possible sanctions. Demonstrations by the opposition have been banned.

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