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The U.N. Is Not Leaving Liberia Yet, Says Spokesman

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended that the 14,000 plus U.N. peacekeepers in Liberia be reduced by five thousand over the next three years starting this October. But does this mean that Liberia is now a stable country?

Ben Malor is spokesman for the U.N. Mission in Liberia. He told VOA that a lot of progress has been made on the security front in Liberia and the West Africa sub-region.

“With us over here, in Liberia, the U.N. Mission, the assessment is that the security is calm and stable and also investment in the security of Liberia go a long way in stabilizing the sub-region. The final decision about the recommendations that are being made by the U.N. Mission in Liberia regarding the adjustment, the scaling down, that is going to be determined by the Security County. That is yet to come in the early part of next month,” he said

Malor said a lot still needed to be done. But he said the U.N. has accomplished its goal of training 3,500 officers by July 2007. He said the U.N. Mission in Liberia is working hard to set up a 500-person rapid response unit within the Liberian police to be ready by July next year. He also said the U.N. is working to have the police deploy in all parts of Liberia.

He said the training of the Armed Forces of Liberia is proceeding with the help of the U.S. government. Malor said the U.N. Mission in Liberia will not leave until the Armed Forces of Liberia is fully trained.

Malor said the Secretary General’s recommendation did not mean that the 14,000 plus U.N. peacekeepers in Liberia were withdrawing.

"First of all, we have to be clear this is not a withdrawer. The U.N. Mission in Liberia is not withdrawing, but the recommendations being made to the U.N. Security Council are that by December 2010, the reduction would be to the troop strength of about 9,000 personnel. And also when it comes to the police, again by December 2010, the reduction will be down to about 742 personnel. So that is the adjustment we are talking about. All these proposals, the recommendations are to be implemented in a well-measured, and calibrated and well monitored manner to make sure that no gaps and no crisis is created,” Malor said.

He said it is likely that the U.N. peacekeepers in Liberia might still be in the country by the 2011 election.

“I think that is going to be much likely. But let me say again, I cannot prejudge the final decision of the U.N. Security Council. But what I can assure you is this the United Nations and the international community has invested a lot of time and energy, manpower, resources into helping Liberians recover from the trauma of the 14 years conflict. The United Nations is not in the position to just let all that go away,” Malor said.