UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to lift the last remaining sanctions on Liberia in a sign of support for the government's progress toward peace after two civil wars.
The resolution adopted by the U.N.'s most powerful body terminated an arms embargo on armed groups and dissolved the council committee and its panel of experts that monitored Liberian sanctions.
Liberia was battered by civil wars that left 200,000 people dead and displaced half of the country's 3 million people.
The Security Council imposed arms and diamond embargoes on Liberia in 2001 to stop government revenues from those industries from being used to fuel the war and in 2003 it added a ban on a major export, timber. The timber sanctions were lifted in 2006 and the diamond sanctions in 2007.
The move to ends sanctions comes on the same day that the chairman of Liberia's ruling party and the speaker of the house of representatives were charged in connection with a bribery scheme to change a mining law in order to help a British firm. Both men denied the allegations and were released on bail.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the termination of the targeted sanctions, saying this "further signals the significant progress made by Liberia and the sub-region in maintaining stability," his spokesman said.
U.S. deputy ambassador David Pressman said Wednesday was a day to "celebrate" Liberia's transition toward peace and security and the council's role in helping to restore stability more than 12 years after the end of the country's "brutal civil war."
The Security Council, the secretary-general, and the U.S. envoy stressed that Liberia's work to improve its security is not finished.
The council encouraged Liberia to adopt laws to control its arms and ammunition and take other measures to combat illicit weapons trafficking — calls echoed by Ban and Pressman.
The final report of the panel of experts monitoring sanctions expressed concern about the vulnerability of West Africa, particularly Liberia, following "terrorist attacks" in neighboring Ivory Coast as well as Mali and Chad, claimed by an al-Qaida affiliate.
"The border between Liberia and Ivory Coast is porous and continues to experience the activities of militants," the panel said.
It expressed concern that all Liberian borders remain vulnerable.
Despite recent deployments of government security personnel along the country's borders, the experts said, "the security apparatus remains weak, undermined by operational difficulties, budgetary constraints and lack of adequate equipment."