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Liberia Wants UN Sanctions Lifted - 2004-06-08

Liberian officials say they want sanctions lifted against the war-torn country, even though a U.N. panel of experts says it is too soon.

A top Liberian government official, Lamini Waritay, says Liberia needs money to rebuild its infrastructure and lifting the sanctions might help.

The sanctions against Liberia's diamond and timber exports were imposed near the end of the country's most recent civil war to prevent those industries from being used to finance the conflict.

"Timber constitutes a very important part of our economic lifeline to the extent that so much depends on the revenues accrued from timber in particular," said Mr. Waritay. "And given the fact that we are now trying to transit from conflict to peace, it is only logical that we try to get the international community to reconsider the sanctions that were imposed during the last administration, because we simply need the money."

Liberia's interim government chairman, Gyude Bryant, has also said the lifting of the sanctions would help the country rebuild.

He has asked the U.N. Security Council to end the bans on diamond and timber exports, saying that the industries could once again provide thousands of jobs for Liberians, jobs he says are much needed by tens of thousands of former combatants who are being disarmed by U.N. peacekeeping troops.

But on Monday, a United Nations panel of experts on Liberia concluded that the country is not yet prepared to safeguard against timber and diamond money being diverted to buy arms or pay corrupt politicians.

An analyst from the London-based Global Witness investigative group, Mike Lundberg, says the Liberian logging industry provided money and logistical support that fueled several conflicts in the region and protections against future abuses are not yet in place.

"It is clear that the requirements set by the U.N. Resolution 1521 have not been met yet for the lifting of sanctions,? he said. ?Under the Taylor administration, basically the government oversight of the timber industry was kept at a minimum so there is a lot of groundwork that needs to be built, and systems that need to be put into place, financial as well as logistical, to oversee the industry effectively and to meet the requirements of the Security Council.?

The U.N. Security Council accused former president Charles Taylor of using profits from diamond and timber sales to buy arms. Mr. Taylor's departure to Nigeria in August ended the Liberian civil war, but the country remains unstable, with many former fighters now in criminal gangs.