Global Policy Forum

West Africans Request Sanctions Delay

February 13, 2001

A group of West African states has asked the United Nations to delay imposing a range of sanctions on Liberia, which has been accused of supporting rebels in Sierra Leone.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) said a two-month delay would give Liberia time to withdraw support from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which operates in diamond-producing regions of Sierra Leone.

"We are not against sanctions. We are for a very efficient implementation of the sanctions when Liberia fails to implement [its] commitments", the head of Ecowas said at UN headquarters on Monday night.

But the US and UK sounded determined to press ahead with measures, with the UK Ambassador to the UN saying "We need very urgent action from Liberia to show they have cut off support to the RUF".

Arms embargo in place

Liberia is already under an arms embargo stemming from its 1989-1996 civil war.

The UN Security Council is now considering increasing the sanctions regime to include a ban on Liberian timber and diamond exports, a travel ban on senior Liberian officials, the grounding of Liberian-registered aircraft and an increased arms embargo.

The proposal follows a December UN report which accused Liberia's president, Charles Taylor, of prolonging the civil war in Sierra Leone by trafficking in guns and diamonds.

Liberia - which is a member of Ecowas - has lobbied hard against the proposed sanctions. Ecowas head Lansana Kouyate - himself a former UN official - said the mere threat of sanctions was helping to rein in Liberia.

'Evidence' against Liberia

But the UK's top man at the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said there was evidence that Liberia was still selling arms to the RUF in exchange for diamonds as recently as January. He did not reveal that evidence.

Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan said it would be vital to have Ecowas support for any sanctions regime to be effective, and that the UN should therefore listen to was the West Africans had to say.

That position seemed to find favour with some members of the Security Coucil, says BBC UN correspondent Mark Devenport.

While the US and UK are keen to go ahead with a full range of sanctions, other Security Council members might prefer to introduce measures more gradually, he adds.

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


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.