Sierra Leone

Britain Supports Sierra Leone Set Up New Army

Desmond Davies, PANA Correspondent
LONDON, UK (PANA) - A team of British military advisers is to be sent to Sierra Leone to help with the setting up of a new army for the war-torn country, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday.

The military advisory training team, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, will be part of a UK-led international effort to rebuild an effective and accountable army for Sierra Leone.

Blair made the announcement during discussions with Sierra Leonean President Ahmed Tejan Kabah, who was attending a high level donors' conference for his country in London.

The one-day conference was jointly hosted by the British secretary of state for international development, Clare Short, the deputy secretary-general of the UN, Louise Frechette, and Mats Karlsson of the World Bank.

Representatives from the European Commission, World Food Programme, the IMF and other donor countries also attended the meeting.

Short stressed the importance of sustaining peace and stability in Sierra Leone.

"Creating new and democratically accountable armed forces in Sierra Leone is vital to the long-term success of the Lome peace agreement and restoring public confidence in the role of the army," she said.

"The restructured armed forces will be representative of all the people of Sierra Leone" she added, urging the international community to provide political backing for the country.

"This is a crucial time for the peace process in Sierra Leone...It is a test case for the international community and its willingness to deal with conflict in Africa," she declared. "It is clear that with the biggest deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force anywhere, the world is watching Sierra Leone."

Short announced an extra 17.5 million pounds sterling toward recovery and support for the peace process in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections early 2001.

This brings to 65 million pounds the amount of UK assistance to Sierra Leone since March 1998.

The UK is also helping to establish a new police force.

A former British chief constable, Keith Biddle, who is already in Freetown, is in charge of the programme.

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