U. S. Supports UN Panel Report

The Perspective
Jan 23, 2001

While it has already imposed its own sanctions on the Taylor government, banning officials, their families, members of that government from travelling to the United States, the U. S. government in support of the UN Panel of Experts report, last week formally introduced a UN resolution calling for global embargo on Liberia's diamond and timber exports, a flight and travel ban, and other sanctions intended to stop diamond smuggling and gunrunning with Sierra Leone's RUF rebels.

In a draft document circulated among small groups of security council experts for study and review, the U.S. asserted that there was "unequivocal and overwhelming evidence" in the panel report that Liberia was "actively supporting the RUF at all levels," including training, weapons, logistical support and providing sanctuary for fighters.

The U.S. resolution, backed by Britain, calls for all nations to prohibit the direct or indirect import of all rough diamonds from Liberia to or through its territory."

According to diplomatic sources close to the UN, several African countries have already voiced opposition to the resolution following lobbying by Liberia.

But in an appeal to African countries, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, making the U.S. case said: "We are distressed that the present government [in Liberia] has abandoned these ideas. And we're distressed but we see no alternative but to put more pressure on the leadership which, like Slobadon Milosevic in Yugoslavia, has been the primary cause of this issue."

But while the government of Liberia has categorically denied its involvement in the illicit diamond trade and its support for the RUF rebels in Sierra Leone, it is clear that it has begun to shoot itself in the foot by a number of pre-emptive moves it has taken which are clearly designed to forestall the biting UN sanctions.

A few days ago, President Charles Taylor announced that he was disengaging from the Sierra Leone peace process by indicating that he was withdrawing his support for the RUF rebels without admitting that he supported them in the first place. The government of Liberia also announced recently that it was grounding all aircrafts registered in the country until their owners prove they are not engaged in illegal activities. The statement further stated that the government had discovered irregularities in the registration of aircrafts. All this only confirms the UN Panel of Experts report, though the Taylor government has vigorously denied the allegations in the report.

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