Liberia Tries to Back Away from UN Embargoes

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(Rapaport…January 25, 2001) Facing a threat of UN sanctions, Liberia has been lobbying Security Council members with promises to cooperate fully in efforts to end diamond and arms trafficking with Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

Liberia’s Foreign Minister Monie Captan flew to New York and met with Council members on January 24, stating that Liberia is prepared to cooperate and that the Council should hold off on sanctions. “I don’t think punitive sanctions should be the first response of the international community to this problem,” Captan told reporters. “I think it will further exacerbate it.”

Captan said his country has already grounded all Liberian-registered aircraft, announced a policy of disengagement from Sierra Leone and asked all RUF members to leave Liberia immediately. Liberia also wants the United Nations to monitor its airports and borders and to oversee all diamond matters in the country, including a new certification system to distinguish legally mined gemstones from conflict diamonds.

The Associated Press reports that the Council is almost certain to demand some sanctions and that Liberia is pushing behind the scenes for limited measures, not the full list of diamonds, arms, timber and travel embargoes proposed in the U.S.-drafted resolution.

A UN Expert Panel Report on Sierra Leone cited Liberia, as well as Burkina Faso, the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea and others, for transshipping conflict diamonds originating from Sierra Leone’s RUF rebels and/or Angola’s UNITA rebel movement. The Security Council is expected to meet on January 25 to consider the report.

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