Global Policy Forum

UN Moves Toward Ban on Liberia

March 1, 2001

UN Security Council members on Wednesday moved towards punishing Liberia with a diamond ban for fomenting war in Sierra Leone, but face objections from west Africans who must enforce the embargoes.

"The council as a whole is agreed, first of all, there will need to be sanctions on Liberia if Liberia doesn't take action on ending its support for the rebellion in Sierra Leone," British ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock said after a private session of the 15-member body.

Hoping to get full support from west African nations and their supporters, who want a delay in adopting the resolution, Greenstock said that the text would be reviewed again on Friday.

According to the latest US-British draft, the council would bar the purchase of all Liberian diamond exports, stop travel by senior Liberian government officials and broaden an arms embargo, imposed on Monrovia in 1992. Liberia, and especially its president, Charles Taylor, is accused of supplying Sierra Leone's rebels with military equipment and logistical aid in exchange for diamonds they mine in Sierra Leone. Taylor denies the charges.

The embargoes would come into force automatically two months after the resolution is adopted unless Liberia fulfills a series of requirements, including grounding all planes until its air register complies with global civil aviation standards.

But the date of passage is still uncertain because west African nations, except for Sierra Leone and Guinea, have argued against the automatic trigger. Instead the west Africans, who would be instrumental in enforcing any sanctions, want two months to monitor Liberia's pledges to stop its guns-for-gems trade with Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. They are expected to meet on the fringes of an Organisation of African Unity summit in Libya this week. Greenstock said that many council members believed the 15-nation body was a "master of its own business." However, he said that diplomacy with African leaders was important and he hoped that a decision would be taken within the next week.

The resolution is based on a December report by an independent UN panel that accused Liberia of training the RUF rebels, giving them logistical support and providing a staging ground for warfare against the Sierra Leone government. Taylor and a small coterie of government officials and private businessmen were in control of a "sanctions-busting apparatus that includes international criminal activity," said the five-member expert panel, commissioned by the council.

The RUF, which is generally honouring a cease-fire in Sierra Leone since last November, controls the diamond mine areas where government soldiers have not been allowed to enter. It took some 500 UN peacekeepers hostage last May when they came too close to RUF strongholds.

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


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