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US Diplomat Calls for Additional Liberian Sanctions - 2003-03-04

A top U.S. diplomat is calling for additional sanctions against Liberia if President Charles Taylor fails to comply with existing U.N. resolutions.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Pamela Bridgewater says Liberia is key to stability in the West African sub-region. But she says Liberia is still not in compliance with U.N. resolutions calling for an end to arms trafficking and to the Revolutionary United Front rebels of Sierra Leone operating in Liberia. "These resolutions are an important means of encouraging the peace process and internal reform," she said. "The international community should consider additional sanctions and monitoring if the government of Liberia refuses to adhere to U.N. resolutions and cooperate with the Contact Group."

The United States is a member of the International Contact Group on Liberia, which is co-chaired by the European Union and Ghana.

Ambassador Bridgewater spoke at the end of a two-day symposium near Washington on the problems with Liberia's upcoming presidential elections scheduled for next October. She said President Charles Taylor cannot afford to squander the opportunity to deliver good governance to his people. "If the Liberia government does not provide its own people with the services and leadership they deserve, it risks losing all popular support and jeopardizes constructive and significant U.S. engagement."

Ambassador Bridgewater said the contact group is working on a formula under which President Taylor and his challengers can run for office in a fair and open election. "We praise President Taylor's recent nomination of two new credible additional election commissioners, but the commission needs greater independence. The government also must allow long-delayed voter registration and political party training to occur; political parties must have access to the media, which cannot be bullied into restricting its coverage of events in Liberia," said Ms. Bridgewaer. "Politicians and voters also need improved internal security as prerequisites for successful elections."

The symposium was co-sponsored by the U.S. based Movement for Democratic Change in Liberia and the Association of Liberian Journalists in the Americas.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael Francis of Monrovia, who delivered the keynote address, says there can be no elections in Liberia unless the ongoing civil war comes to an end and an international force comes to Liberia to protect all Liberians.