U.N. Extends Liberian Diamond Ban

December 22, 2004

U.N. Extends Liberian Diamond Ban

The United Nations Security Council renewed sanctions Dec. 21 against Liberia's diamond and timber industries and re-imposed bans on weapons importing and travel by certain former officials, according to the U.N. News Service. The Security Council had reviewed an expert report citing failures in Liberia's management of its major natural resources before making its decision and said it still feared that proceeds from those resources might fuel conflicts. The council imposed the export bans as well as 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.

Liberia's finances remain in shambles and the authorities cannot ensure that the revenues from a resumed trade in diamonds and timber would be used to benefit the lives of ordinary Liberians, the experts reported last week. The new government in the impoverished West African nation of 3.2 million people has been pushing hard for the U.N. sanctions to be lifted so it can resume diamond and timber exports to help rebuild its economy after 14 years of on-and-off civil war.

Diamond sanctions were renewed for six months, but will be reviewed after three months, since the country had made some progress towards implementing the Kimberley Certificate of Origin regime for its rough diamonds, the Council said. Liberia had also scheduled a visit from Kimberley representatives for early next year. The arms and travel bans and timber export sanctions were renewed for a year, but with a promise to review the progress made in six months.

The Council noted that the measures remained in force "to prevent former President Charles Taylor, his immediate family members, senior officials of the former Taylor regime, or other close allies or associates from using misappropriated funds and property to interfere in the restoration of peace and stability in Liberia and the sub-region."

It repeated earlier calls for the international donor community to assist the peace process, especially with reintegration of former combatants and reconstruction, to respond to humanitarian appeals and to help the National Transitional Government with financial, administrative and technical needs, especially in fulfilling requirements for lifting the sanctions.

The Council also called for no more than five experts on arms, timber, diamonds, finance, humanitarian and other relevant issues, drawing as much as possible on the expertise of the previous panel, to be appointed by the Secretary-General and Council members and given a six-month mandate to investigate any violations of the sanctions worldwide.

The Panel of Experts would detect "various sources of financing, such as from natural resources, for any illicit trade of arms," if any, and would assess progress in meeting the standards that would allow the sanctions to be lifted.

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