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UN Lifts Liberia Timber Sanctions

The U.N. Security Council has lifted timber sanctions imposed on Liberia three years ago, when former President Charles Taylor was in power.

The Security Council voted unanimously to conditionally lift the timber export ban. The action follows last week's move to ease an arms embargo to allow Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to provide weapons to state security forces.

But the Council left in place an embargo on Liberia's diamond trade.

The vote came as former Liberian President Charles Taylor was being transferred to The Hague to face war crimes charges.

Council ambassadors noted the progress Liberia has made since President Sirleaf came to power in its commitment to forestry sector reforms.

But Ben Chang, the spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N. said the sanctions could be re-imposed in three months unless Liberian lawmakers formally adopt those reforms.

"There is a measure to lift the timber sanctions, but there is a review clause after 90 days that is in there, tied to a passage of a forestry legislation that has been proposed," he said.

Chang rejected a reporter's suggestion that lifting the weapons and timber sanctions might be premature. He called the moves to ease Taylor era penalties part of a process aimed at supporting President Sirleaf's effort to stabilize Liberia.

"We look at this as a process," he said. "For example, on the arms embargo, it was an easy meaningful lifting, specifically to insure that there is proper security for the president and certain officials in the new government. We look at all these measures as supporting the new president and her efforts to stabilize the country. She has specifically requested this, I feel that this is a vote of confidence in her, and that there is a process laid out in the text of the resolution to insure that it is done within certain guidelines."

The lifting of the timber sanctions leaves the embargo on diamonds as the last remaining U.N. embargo in Liberia. That embargo was extended for an additional six months, though it will be reviewed after four months.

Trafficking in illegal diamonds was among the main causes of two civil wars in Liberia since 1989.