Liberia says it is complying with sanctions

Liberia’s foreign minister on Monday said the West African country is in complete compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime and complained the punishment was hurting ordinary citizens, not the government, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

In rejecting a U.N. investigative report that found his country in violation of sanctions, Monie Kaptan said the U.N. action had made a bad situation worse, the AP reported. “Today I stand impatient as I await this council’s action to alleviate the human suffering in my country,” Kaptan said during an open meeting of the Security Council that dealt with the report.

The council placed a new arms embargo on Liberia in March and a diamond embargo and travel restrictions in May to punish President Charles Taylor’s gun- and diamond-running with brutal Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels across the border in Sierra Leone. The sanctions’ broader aim is to bring peace to the troubled West African region.

Kaptan also argued that the bans have hampered Liberia’s efforts to put down a rebellion in the northern part of the country, the AP reported. “My government would like this council to remove those constraints … so that Liberia can defend its territory and sovereignty,” he reportedly said.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham praised the report and said hardships facing Liberians were not a result of sanctions but of years of war and the policies of Taylor’s government, the AP reported.

Liberia says it has complied with U.N. sanctions by grounding all Liberian-registered aircraft, imposing a temporary ban on diamond sales, expelling Sierra Leone’s RUF rebels based in the country and forcing disclosure of rebel finances.

The $900,000 U.N. report, however, said the embargo on Liberian diamond exports prompted dealers to disguise the stones as originating from neighboring countries.

The panel also called on the Security Council to ground all aircraft from three regional airlines after finding they were being used to transport weapons.

While the panel noted some progress, it recommended that the current sanctions be extended and called for a new U.N. ban on the export of logs from Liberia and an arms embargo on rebel groups there and in Sierra Leone, and Guinea, the AP reported.