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US Seeks to Freeze Assets of Charles Taylor, Other Former Liberian Officials - 2004-03-05

The United States Friday introduced a U.N. Security Council resolution that would freeze the assets of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, his family members and close associates. Mr. Taylor is reported to have taken millions of dollars in government funds when he left Liberia for exile in Nigeria last year.

The decision to sponsor the Security Council resolution came in response to a recommendation several months ago by a U.N. panel of experts, and reflects United States concern about the degree of influence Mr. Taylor may still have in Liberia.

State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the asset freeze would apply to Mr. Taylor, members of his immediate family, senior officials of the former Liberian government, and close associates and is aimed at curbing their use of stolen funds:

"The purpose of this draft resolution is to prevent these officials from using misappropriated funds and property to engage in and promote activities that undermine peace and stability in Liberia and the region," he said.

Mr. Taylor was forced out as Liberian president last August and went into exile in Nigeria under a peace deal ending the civil war in that country and bringing in a United Nations peacekeeping force.

U.N. officials said shortly after his departure that Mr. Taylor left with about three million dollars that had been donated by the international community to underwrite the disarmament and demobilization of civil war combatants.

Under the exile arrangement brokered by the West African grouping ECOWAS, Mr. Taylor went to Nigeria on condition that he not face immediate hand-over to the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone, which indicted him for crimes against humanity last June.

Mr. Taylor is alleged by the court to have been the main backer of rebels who waged a ten-year campaign of maiming and murder in Sierra Leone.

In congressional testimony last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the immunity deal was the only way to get Mr. Taylor out of power and out of Liberia and that the United States would have preferred another arrangement. But he said Mr. Taylor is still subject to the tribunal and that the Bush administration is hoping and working for "a set of circumstances" under which he will face justice.