Global Policy Forum

Liberia Lifts Ban on Visas for

Associated Press
January 26, 2001

The Liberian government has lifted a ban on visas for U.S. officials and their families in an apparent attempt to improve relations, which have soured over allegations the West African country is trafficking in diamonds and weapons with Sierra Leonean rebels.

The move, announced late Thursday, came the same day the United States and Britain called on the United Nations to impose swift sanctions against Liberia for helping the rebels acquire arms and get their diamonds to market.

Presidential spokesman Reginald Goodridge, however, denied Liberia's move was an attempt to circumvent the sanctions threat by winning favor with the United States.

''Whatever the United Nations is debating at this point is quite different from our bilateral relations with the United States,'' Goodridge said Friday.

He instead described the step as ''a token of good will'' toward the new administration of President Bush.

President Charles Taylor announced the travel restrictions in October, following similar moves by the United States, which also recalled nonessential embassy staff from Monrovia in protest over Liberia's alleged diamond and weapons smuggling.

Taylor denies his government is involved in any illegal activities and says Liberia founded by freed American slaves is being unfairly demonized.

At a U.N. Security Council session in New York Thursday, Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan outlined measures the government had taken in recent days to answer the smuggling allegations, including expelling Sierra Leonean rebels, grounding all Liberian-registered aircraft and requesting U.N. monitoring of its airports and diamond exports.

But Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham pressed for sanctions, telling the council that Liberia's initiatives were ''unconvincing and not sufficient.'' Sierra Leonean rebels have killed tens of thousands of people and systematically maimed many more in an almost 10-year campaign to overthrow the government and secure control of the country's lucrative diamond mines.

While the United States restricts visas for Liberian officials, thousands of civilians are living in the United States after fleeing their home country because of a civil war that ended in 1996.

More Information on Diamonds in Conflict
More Information on Sierra Leone and Liberia
More Information on Sanctions


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