U.N. OKs Peacekeeping Force in Liberia

The U.N. Security Council (search) voted late Friday to authorize a multinational force to help end fighting in war-battered Liberia and maintain security after President Charles Taylor (search) steps down. France, Germany and Mexico abstained from the vote.

The United States pushed for a vote to formally establish an emergency force as West African leaders prepared to send the first contingent of Nigerian peacekeeping troops to Liberia (search) on Monday.

The resolution authorizes the multinational force to remain in Liberia for two months when it will be replaced by a U.N. peacekeeping force — no later than Oct. 1.

The United Nations, African countries, and others have been pressing Washington to lead the force to help end a conflict between troops loyal to Taylor and rebels trying to oust him — but the draft resolution makes no mention of U.S. troops participating.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said Wednesday the Bush administration wants the force being assembled by the Economic Community of West African States (search), known as ECOWAS, to take the lead, with the United States providing support.

The United States had hoped for a unanimous vote but France, Germany and Mexico abstained to protest a provision that would prevent the International Criminal Court (search) from prosecuting participants in the multinational force from countries that haven't ratified the Rome treaty establishing the war crimes tribunal.

The United States vehemently opposes the court, fearing frivolous or political prosecutions of U.S. troops.

Germany and Mexico explained before the vote that this provision would also violate their national laws by preventing their prosecutors from investigating crimes against German or Mexico citizens in Liberia.

Liberia was founded in the 19th century by freed American slaves and retained close cultural ties to the United States. It has been engulfed in intermittent conflict since Taylor launched a civil war in 1989.

The resolution adopted Friday authorizes the Sierra Leone mission to provide logistical support to the ECOWAS force for 30 days.

U.N. officials said they expect the Nigerian battalion now in Sierra Leone as part of the U.N. force to be the first to arrive in Liberia. The United States will transport the second Nigerian battalion, which should put about 1,500 troops in the country, a U.S. official said.

The resolution formally creates a multinational force to support implementation of a June 17 cease-fire agreement which has been repeatedly broken, and to help establish and maintain security after Taylor departs and "a successor authority" is installed.

It authorizes the force to help "secure the environment" so that desperately needed humanitarian aid can be delivered and to prepare for the initial stages of disarming and demobilizing combatants.

The Security Council also declared its readiness to establish a follow-on U.N. peacekeeping force and start deploying it by Oct. 1. Annan was asked to submit recommendations on its size, structure and mandate, preferably by Aug. 15.