U.N. Continues Liberian Diamond Embargo

June 21, 2004

U.N. Continues Liberian Diamond Embargo

The United Nations Security Council will leave in place embargoes on Liberian diamond and timber exports for six more months, it said on June 17. Peace in Liberia remains too fragile for the embargoes to be lifted now, as was sought by Liberia's interim leader Gyude Bryant, said the 15-nation Security Council. Liberia has seen decades of on-and-off civil war.

The Security Council imposed the ban on diamond and timber exports and an arms embargo between 2001 and 2003 after accusing then-President Charles Taylor of fueling conflict in the region through an illicit guns-for-diamonds trade.

Weighed down by the sanctions and repeated attempts by rebel groups to oust him from power, Taylor went into exile in Nigeria last August, clearing the way for a peace deal with rebels and the installation of the new transitional government led by Bryant.

Earlier this month, Bryant said a quick end to the sanctions would help Liberia put the years of conflict behind it, revive its economy and find jobs for former combatants. But a panel of outside experts concluded that while the situation in Liberia was improving, the new government in Monrovia had just begun efforts to certify the origins of rough diamonds and track timber revenues.

The resolution, adopted unanimously by the Security Council, calls for U.N. experts to continue monitoring the sanctions for six months and report back by Dec. 10, 2004, on lifting the sanctions or leaving them in place. The resolution instructs the experts to consider the impact of the sanctions on the economic and social well-being of the Liberian people when preparing their recommendations. In the meantime, the Security Council encouraged the transitional government to take the necessary steps to ensure money from future exports would be used to benefit the people and not be diverted to buy arms or enrich corrupt politicians.

Separately, the Security Council listed associates of former-President Taylor, including his immediate family, whose assets are to be frozen under a resolution adopted earlier this year to to prevent them "from using misappropriated fund and property to interfere in the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia and the sub-region." Also named was weapons and minerals air transporter Viktor Bout, whom the Council says supported Taylor's regime in an effort to destabilize Sierra Leone and gain illicit access to diamonds.

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