The U.N. Security Council has extended sanctions against Liberia, saying the country's government has failed to control illegal diamond sales. The council also expressed renewed concern about the activities of former Liberian President Charles Taylor.
A resolution adopted unanimously Tuesday extends diamond and timber sanctions against Liberia for another six months. The British-drafted measure urges Liberia's transitional government to do more to prevent illegal diamond sales that are fueling wars among West African states.
The Security Council approved the diamond ban in 2001 after finding that former president Charles Taylor had provided assistance to rebels fighting the government in neighboring Sierra Leone. A ban on timber sales was added in 2003.
Britain's U.N. ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry said the decision to extend the sanctions until December should be seen by Liberia's leaders as a hopeful message. "It tells them what can be possible but it tells them also that what they've been doing in terms of the way the diamond trade and industry is being run isn't satisfactory… But we're looking for progress in terms of managing all of Liberia's resources, and we're sending a clear message of support for the sorts of development in Liberia that we all want to see," he said.
The resolution passed Tuesday expresses concern at information that the exiled former president Taylor and others associated with him continue to engage in activities that undermine the country's peace and stability.
Mr. Taylor was granted exile by Nigeria in 2003. He has since been indicted by a U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal. The Sierra Leone-based tribunal last month asked the Security Council for help in bringing the former Liberian leader to justice, saying he is working with the al-Qaida terrorist network on a plan to destabilize West Africa.
Ambassador Jones-Parry said the latest resolution does not call for Mr. Taylor's extradition because negotiations on his status are at a sensitive stage. But he suggested the former Liberian leader would soon face prosecution. "Taylor cannot avoid coming to justice, at some stage his impunity will have to end, the only question is how do we do it. We didn't believe this was the vehicle to achieve that. The discussions continue, and at some stage, I hope before very long, Taylor will face justice," he said.
The U.S. House of Representatives last month passed a non-binding resolution urging Nigeria to hand over Mr. Taylor to the war crimes tribunal. Nigerian authorities have refused to expel him unless there is proof he has violated the terms of his exile agreement.
In a recent report to the Security Council, however, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Mr. Taylor is suspected of trying to influence the outcome of Liberia's presidential election, which would be a clear violation of the exile agreement.