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Liberia's Taylor Under Fire for Illicit Diamond Trade - 2001-01-25

Liberia's President Charles Taylor is under fire at the United Nations for his role in Sierra Leone supporting the Revolutionary United Front rebels and illicit trade in diamonds.

British Deputy Ambassador Stewart Eldon said Britain and the United States are co-sponsoring a draft resolution to pressure President Taylor and his associates who are violating U.N. sanctions.

Mr. Eldon spoke at a Security Council meeting called to discuss a recent report by a panel of experts on the situation in Sierra Leone. The report documents the exploitation of Sierra Leone's natural resources, namely diamonds, and violations of the arms embargo on Sierra Leone.

Mr. Eldon said the report identifies individuals, companies, and nations that are violating the sanctions. "There should be no sanctuary for sanctions-busters," he said. "We note with particular concern the panel's conclusion that Liberian President Charles Taylor is actively involved in fueling the violence in Sierra Leone through both financial and military support.

"The panel has also found that the bulk of RUF diamonds are smuggled out of Sierra Leone through Liberia and that Liberian-registered aircraft are being used for illicit arms deliveries," added Mr. Eldon. "In the light of these findings, there can no longer be a shadow of a doubt that President Taylor has been callously prolonging the conflict in Sierra Leone for personal gain."

President Taylor has said he intends to halt his support for the RUF rebels and disengage from Sierra Leone. But Mr. Eldon calls the pledge - too little, too late.

Saying Liberia is supporting rebel movements in other neighboring countries, such as Guinea, and threatening the stability of the entire region, Mr. Eldon says it is time for the Security Council to act.

The draft resolution includes a ban on Liberian rough diamonds, a ban on flights by Liberian-registered aircraft, a new arms embargo, a selected travel ban on senior Liberian officials, and a ban on the import of Liberian timber. The Security Council is not expected to vote on the resolution for several weeks.