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Friday, June 5, 1998 Published at 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK

World: Africa

UN eases Sierra Leone arms embargo

The arms embargo was imposed to prevent weapons reaching rebel groups

The United Nations Security Council has partially removed the arms embargo in force against Sierra Leone to allow weapons to reach the democratically-elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.

The resolution comes after a controversy in Britain over whether the government allowed a British firm to break the arms embargo to supply arms to President Kabbah.

In a resolution adopted unanimously, the council said weapons must enter the country through specific government-controlled border points so that they avoid falling into the hands of supporters of the former military regime.

The military junta was ousted in February 1998 by a Nigerian-led intervention force, but its supporters have been battling government forces in some northern and eastern areas of the country.

The draft also stipulates that the sanctions should not apply to the Nigerian-led African peace-keeping force Ecomog or to UN forces in Sierra Leone.

However, the sanctions would remain in force against remaining rebel forces associated with the former military government until "all non-governmental forces have been disarmed and demobilised".

Red Cross condemns rebels

In another develolpment, the International Committee of the Red Cross has accused soldiers of the ousted military government of committing atrocities against civilians.

It said that doctors had treated more than 1,000 severely-mutilated civilians in recent weeks.

Many had one or both arms amputated, while others had deep lacerations to the arms and face.

The injuries were inflicted during attacks on villages by the former military government and allied rebels ousted by the West African intervention force in February.

More than 240,000 refugees have fled attacks by rebels in the east and north of Sierra Leone over the past few weeks.

The ICRC says it believes hundreds of people have been killed, and only one in four survivors has managed to reach help.

The medical charity Medecins sans Frontiers said thousands of civilians have been attacked over the last six weeks. It said some of the atrocities included burning children alive.

The United Nations and other international groups have accused the rebels of seeking revenge against defenceless civilians.

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