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Monday, 7 May, 2001, 23:34 GMT 00:34 UK
Liberia blasts sanctions
RUF rebels in Sierra Leone
Liberia is accused of keeping ties with RUF rebels
On the day that British-sponsored United Nations sanctions came into force to punish Liberia for its support for rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone, its government has again accused London of backing Liberian rebels.

In a statement, the government said some of the arms and ammunition given by Britain to the Sierra Leone national army was now being supplied to rebels fighting in northern Liberia.

Charles Taylor
Taylor: Given a chance to co-operate
The British army strenuously denies any involvement in the Liberian war, but the BBC's West Africa correspondent, Mark Doyle, says it is quite possible in this chaotic region that some British weapons have reached the Liberian rebels.

Liberia and Sierra Leone have been fighting a proxy war through various rebel groups for several years.

A series of street demonstrations have been organised in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, to protest against the sanctions, which the Liberian Government describes as unjust.

Liberian Foreign Minister Monie Captan said the information on which the UN Security Council had acted was unfair and based on hearsay.

The world should know that these actions against us are unjust

President Taylor
Liberia had taken comprehensive measures, he said, to comply with the UN's demands over its alleged involvement in the Sierra Leone war: it had acted to expel leaders from the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) who have been accused of killing, raping and mutilating civilians over the last decade; and it had acted to ensure diamonds from the region were not smuggled through Liberia to finance the war.

The UN had ignored these steps, he added.

Under the sanctions regime, diamond exports from Liberia will be banned in an effort to halt the smuggling of gems from rebel-held areas in Sierra Leone.

Foreign travel by senior Liberian officials will also be restricted.

Britain and the United States believe the Liberian President, Charles Taylor, has been running guns to the rebels in exchange for so-called "blood diamonds" from the rich Sierra Leonean diamond fields.

UN officials said the sanctions were designed to hit the president and his government ministers, rather than ordinary Liberians.

But some West African nations, the very countries which will have to implement the sanctions, are opposed to them. They think the measures could put Mr Taylor's back to the wall and cause a nationalist backlash in Liberia, which he could exploit.

Liberia has yet to recover from a disastrous civil war in the early 1990s, and a new armed rebellion against Mr Taylor recently began in the north of the country.

Second chance

The UN authorised the sanctions on 7 March, but delayed their implementation for two months to give Liberia a chance to comply with its demands.

West African UN ambassadors argued that they wanted the delay in order to monitor Mr Taylor's willingness to co-operate.

The RUF has been fighting to take control of diamond fields in Sierra Leone since 1991.

Liberia is already under an arms embargo stemming from its 1989-1996 civil war.

The BBC's Mark Doyle in Abidjan
"The UN sanctions... are the result of months of negotiations"
See also:

16 Feb 01 | Africa
UN delays Liberia sanctions
15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
12 Feb 01 | Africa
Timeline: Liberia
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Liberia
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