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UN Approves International Peacekeepers in Liberia - 2003-08-02

The U.N. Security Council has adopted a U.S. drafted resolution authorizing a multi-national force to try to end the crisis in Liberia. The resolution passed by a 12-to-0 vote.

The resolution authorizes the deployment of regional troops from the Economic Community of West African States. It allows the multinational troops to use force "to secure the environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance."

The resolution also calls for the secretary-general to lay the groundwork by October 1 for a U.N. peacekeeping force for the troubled West African nation.

The measure was approved just days before the first of two battalions of 1,500 Nigerian troops are set to arrive in Liberia to help end a civil war.

The deteriorating humanitarian situation also gave the resolution an added sense of urgency. U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte described the measure as both timely and important.

"It was obviously important that this resolution be passed today so we are very pleased with this outcome," he said, "and we think it will lend support to the effort to restore peace to Liberia, enforcement of the cease-fire, and assist in alleviating the very difficult humanitarian situation that prevails in that country."

Ambassador Negroponte did not say if President Bush would commit U.S. troops to Liberia, but he indicated that U.S. forces off shore would provide logistical support to ECOWAS.

Although the 15-member Security Council adopted the measure, it was not without controversy.

France, Germany and Mexico abstained because of language in the text allowing any crimes committed by peacekeepers to be prosecuted only by the troops' own governments. The three countries, which ratified the statutes of the International Criminal Court, opposed by the Bush administration, took issue with the exemption.

"There is no precedent for this and there is no reason to limit the national jurisdiction of third countries," said German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger. "And there is no justification to discriminate peacekeepers from countries [that are] members of the Rome Statue of the ICC."

Ambassador Pleuger said the paragraph in question is unrelated to the rest of the Liberia resolution. In addition to authorizing the troops the measure also calls for Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is under-indictment for war crimes in Sierra Leone, to abide by an agreement to leave the country for Nigeria. And the Security Council urges rebel troops battling government forces to adhere to a June 17 cease-fire.

The resolution allows the United Nations to provide some financial support for the ECOWAS deployment, which had been urgently recommended by the Secretary General. After the vote, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he hoped the resolution gives some hope to the suffering Liberian people.

But he indicated that it could be difficult for the United Nations to set up a peacekeeping force to Liberia in just two months.