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Liberia Urges Probe Into Alleged Role in

Xinhua News Agency
June 14, 2000

The Liberian government is demanding an international commission of inquiry into allegations that it is involved in diamond and gunrunning in Sierra Leone, reports reaching here from Monrovia said Wednesday.

"We are disappointed as a government and a member of the international community that there was not a thorough investigation done to exonerate Liberia or establish its involvement in Sierra Leone," said the country' s Information Minister Joe Mulbah in the West African country' s capital.

His statement on Wednesday was apparently reacting to reports that Britain Tuesday succeeded in blocking a 35-million-pound European Union aid package to Liberia due to President Charles Taylor's alleged support to rebels in Sierra Leone. Britain had expressed concern that Taylor has failed to act to prevent arms and other supplies from reaching the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front from Liberian territory and allowing it to smuggle illicit diamonds out of Sierra Leone.

Liberia has repeatedly denied the allegations and has called on its accusers to provide proof of their claims. "We feel that the action is unjust. The first thing Britain would have done along with the EU was to launch an investigation into the matter and confront us with any evidence so that we can defend ourselves," Mulbah said.

The minister added that what the government feared most was that Britain's action could trigger a complete international blockade that would not stop at the level of the EU, but may spread to other international bodies.

"We have said over and over that our border with Sierra Leone is porous. That is why we have repeatedly called for international monitors to observe it, unfortunately that is yet to be done," he said. "We believe Britain and the EU should rethink their decision to withhold aid from a country emerging from seven years of war and is playing an influential role in the sub-region," Mulbah added.

The RUF started the war in Sierra Leone in 1991 from territory then controlled by Taylor's defunct rebel National Patriotic Front. Since then many have held the view that the Liberian president holds sway over the RUF and its now detained leader, Foday Sankoh. Taylor last month had used his influence to persuade Sierra Leone' s rebels to release the bulk of the some 400 UN peacekeepers held hostages by them.

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