More Hostility Develops in Conflict Diamond Crisis

March 22, 2001

More Hostility Develops in Conflict Diamond Crisis

Liberia on Monday ordered ambassadors from Sierra Leone and Guinea to leave the country within a week, the Associated Press reports. Liberia's Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement the two ambassadors had been involved in acts incompatible with their status. Not long after the order, Liberia abruptly ordered its security forces to seal its border with Sierra Leone. Liberia's Justice Ministry gave no explanation for the border closing, saying only that it was effective at midnight on Monday, AP reports.

In response to Liberia's sudden actions, on Wednesday the government of Sierra Leone said it will expel the Liberian charge d'affaires, BBC News reports. Sierra Leone's Information Minister told BBC that Liberian President Charles Taylor seemed determined to escalate the crisis in the region and may be expelling the ambassadors so they don't see what he is doing. Sierra Leone officials plan to air their grievances at the United Nations.

Also on Monday, Liberia imposed an immediate ban on the entry of all uncertified rough diamonds from countries with existing certification regimes, Reuters reports. Sierra Leone has a certification system in place, and Guinea set up a system last week where all diamonds leaving the country need a clearance certificate from the government. Liberian officials say the ban is part of the country's effort to establish an internationally acceptable certificate of origin regime and avoid further U.N. sanctions. The U.N. Security Council gave Liberia until May to set up a system and sever its ties with Sierra Leone's rebels.

- by Julia M. Duncan