Liberia

Annan appoints expert panel to probe impact of sanctions in Liberia

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Secretary-General Kofi Annan today appointed a five-member panel of experts to go to Liberia to assess the implementation and impact of the United Nations Security Council's sanctions regime imposed on the war-devastated country, which includes a ban on timber exports in addition to existing travel, arms and diamond embargoes.

The panel is charged specifically with looking into restrictions on the diamond trade and the timber industry. It will also assess the impact these measures on the local population, and check into the implementation of an arms embargo.

Citing Liberia's "active support" of rebel groups which were having a destabilizing effect on West Africa, the Council renewed sanctions against that country in 2003 and extended the measures to include a ban on timber exports in addition to existing arms and diamond embargoes.

The Council initially approved the measures in May 2001, after determining that former President Charles Taylor's government had helped the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone fight the government there, during the country's brutal decade-long civil war.

The timber ban was prompted, according to the Council, because Liberia's Government had not shown that revenue from the timber industry was "used for legitimate social, humanitarian and development purposes." The Council stressed that it would routinely consider how best to minimize the impact of the ban on the country's humanitarian situation and could allow the resumption of exports to fund relief programmes.

The newly appointed expert panel is expected to report back to the Council in December.