Liberia

Corruption undermines peace drive in Liberia -UN

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By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 (Reuters) - International agencies are pressing Liberia's interim government to crack down on corruption because it is undermining the peace process in the troubled West African nation, the United Nations said on Monday.

A plan to improve economic governance in Liberia was drawn up last month in Copenhagen by officials of the United Nations, European Commission, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the West African economic bloc ECOWAS and the United States, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

The group drafted the plan after finding "financial malfeasance, lack of transparency and an absence of accountability" in the transitional government, Annan said in his latest report to the U.N. Security Council on Liberia.

The interim government was installed in August 2003 when President Charles Taylor fled into exile in Nigeria after 14 years of on-and-off war in Liberia, an impoverished nation of 3.2 million people founded by freed American slaves.

The Security Council banned Liberian timber and diamond exports as well as arms deals in stages starting in 2001 after accusing Taylor of fueling war in the region through an illicit trade in arms for diamonds and other natural resources.

The interim government is shepherding the country until a democratically elected administration can be chosen in balloting now scheduled for Oct. 11.

While the authorities are making progress stabilizing the country, some have been blocking outside audits and investigations of suspected corruption, Annan said.

There are also new reports Taylor is violating the conditions of his exile by keeping in touch with former business, military and political associates in Liberia and funneling money to several presidential candidates to try to ensure a friendly elected government, Annan said.

"This issue requires the attention of West African leaders and the Security Council," Annan said.

While the government has made progress in regaining control of its diamond and timber resources, much remains to be done and it is not yet time to lift the U.N. sanctions, Annan said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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