Liberian, Malian Leaders Urge Further UN Deployment in S. Leone
Liberian President Charles Taylor and his Malian counterpart Alpha Omar Konare wish to see the "urgent deployment" of UN troops in rebel-held areas of Sierra Leone, the Monrovia government said Tuesday.
Taylor and Konare made the call at Robertsfield International Airport, 45 kilometres (almost 30 miles) from Monrovia, on Monday as Mali's leader paid a visit in his role as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
They said the deployment of troops in the UN Assistance Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in parts of the country held by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) would help to accelerate the implementation of a peace process there.
The UN Security Council last week extended the mandate of a 12,000-strong UN force in Sierra Leone until March 31, expressing concern that RUF was not abiding by a ceasefire accord signed with President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah's government on November 10.
Taylor himself has been accused in a damaging UN report of giving support to the rebels in the neighboring country and reaping the benefit in the trade in diamonds from the territory they hold. Monrovia has countered that the United Nations is seeking to "destabilize" the former guerrilla leader's government.
Britain and the United States are pressing for tougher sanctions against Liberia on top of an arms embargo now in force, along with measures to stem the trade in "blood diamonds".
Konare and Taylor also stressed the need for ECOWAS to persuade President Lansana Conte of Guinea to hold talks with the Liberian leader to end a crisis threatening all three countries in the Mano River Union.
Guinea has since September seen a sharp increase in cross-border insurgency and fighting between rebels and government troops in the south, close to the frontier with Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Monrovia has complained of cross-border attacks on northern and northeastern Liberian territories from Guinea.
ECOWAS heads of state on December 16 agreed to deploy a military buffer force in the border region. Sources in Bamako on Monday said that army chiefs of staff were due to meet Wednesday in Nigeria to discuss sending some 1,500 men.
Taylor recently said that about 100 government troops died as a result of attacks by "dissidents" on the northern provincial city of Voinjama. He added that his government spent 50 million dollars to expel the dissident forces from troubled areas.
More than a quarter of a million refugees from Sierra Leone and Liberia based in southern Guinea, as well as tens of thousands of local people, are trapped in appalling conditions in the war zone, the UN refugee agency and other witnesses to their plight have warned -- MONROVIA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)