U.N. Declines to Lift Sanctions on Liberia

The U.N. Security Council (search) voted unanimously Tuesday to maintain economic sanctions against Liberia but promised to review a ban on diamond sales in three months and a ban on timber exports in six months.

The council resolution welcomed steps taken by Liberia's (search) transitional government to meet conditions for lifting these sanctions as well as an arms embargo and travel ban. But it said the government "has not yet established its authority throughout Liberia."

The Security Council approved arms and diamond embargoes and a travel ban in May 2001 after determining that former President Charles Taylor's (search) government had helped rebels in Sierra Leone fight the government there. A new ban on the timber trade took effect in July 2003.

Taylor fled into exile in August 2003, paving the way for Gyude Bryant's transitional government, which is expected to arrange elections late next year and cede power to a representative government in early 2006.

The resolution expressed concern that Taylor and his associates "continue to engage in activities that undermine peace and stability in Liberia and the region."

While the disarmament and demobilization of combatants has been completed and a cease-fire is being respected, the council said "significant challenges remain in completing reintegration, repatriation and restructuring of the security sector as well as establishing and maintaining stability in Liberia and the subregion."

In addition, the resolution said, the government "has made only limited progress toward establishing its full authority and control over the timber-producing areas and toward ensuring that government revenues from the Liberian timber industry are not used to fuel conflict." It urged the government to reform the Forest Development Authority.

The resolution renewed sanctions on diamond exports for six months but said it will review them in three months "with a view to lifting the measures as soon as possible" after the council concludes that an effective regime for trade in rough diamonds is in place.

It renewed the arms, travel and timber bans for one year, with a review after six months.