U.N. to maintain Liberia sanctions

The U.N. Security Council decided Thursday that peace in Liberia was still too fragile to lift sanctions but acknowledged progress by the West African country toward meeting conditions to end timber and diamond embargoes, the Associated Press reports.

Liberia’s interim leader, Gyude Bryant, had appealed to the council last week to lift the sanctions, saying his government desperately needed revenues from these major exports to maintain stability.

The council noted that no major violations of the arms embargo and diamond and timber sanctions had been reported since former warlord and president Charles Taylor fled into exile in August 2003, the AP reports.

But it reportedly said members “felt that peace was still fragile and that the conditions for the lifting of the sanctions were yet to be fully met.”

Philippines Ambassador Lauro Baja, the current council president, reportedly said the United States has introduced a resolution that would extend the mandate of experts monitoring sanctions against Liberia until the end of the year.

The Security Council will likely wait for the panel’s next report before reviewing sanctions again.

Council members emphasized in a statement that continuing sanctions was not meant “to be punitive” for the transitional government or the Liberian people “but to ensure that the peace process was irreversible,” the AP reports.

The council also called on the international community to provide assistance to Liberia’s efforts to recover from decades of war and to fulfill pledges made at a donor’s conference in New York in February.

Bryant, chairman of the transitional government arranged under an August peace accord, had reportedly asked for an end to sanctions after an optimistic U.N. report citing “steady progress” by U.N. peacekeepers in stabilizing Liberia’s security situation.

The appeal marked a reversal for Bryant, who had endorsed the U.N. decision to renew the sanctions on diamonds, timber and arms in December. At that time, he said his government had yet to bring the country fully under control after 14 years of conflict.

The Security Council approved arms and diamond embargoes and a travel ban in May 2001 after determining that Taylor’s government had backed rebels in Sierra Leone. In May 2003, the council approved a one-year extension of the arms and diamond embargoes and the travel ban. It added a new ban on the timber trade which took effect last July.

The report earlier this month by Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Liberia’s peacekeeping mission—currently the United Nation’s largest—was nearing its full strength of 15,000. But it said peace was still threatened by thousands of fighters who have not disarmed.