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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
UN: Sierra Leone should widen control
UN troops
The UN troops will stay for at least another six months
The United Nations Security Council has urged the Sierra Leone Government to restore its authority across the country.

A resolution approved unanimously by the 15-nation council said that extending the government's reach after more than a decade of civil war was essential to sustainable peace and development in the country, and to the holding of free, fair and transparent elections.

President Kabbah
Kabbah has said elections will take place next year
The council also said it was deeply concerned about abuses and attacks committed by both local rebels and civil defence forces and demanded that they stop immediately.

It extended the mandate of the UN mission in Sierra Leone for another six months, until March 2002. The mission, known as Unamsil, is the world body's biggest peacekeeping force, with more than 16,000 troops in the field.

Disarming

Since November 2001, about 18,000 combatants have disarmed, including about half the fighters of the Revolutionary United Front.

This was welcomed by the UN, which said the programme to demobilise and reintegrate the former combatants is crucial to Sierra Leone's long-term stability.

Man with RUF carved in his chest
The RUF mutilated its victims

The council asked both sides to help transform the RUF to turn itself into a political party and "cease any effort at maintaining options for military action".

Earlier this month, the government announced that parliamentary and presidential elections would be held on 14 May 2002.

In July, the council approved plans for a joint UN-Sierra Leone court to prosecute those responsible for atrocities during the 10 year civil war, provided that donors come up with enough money.

War crimes

The resolution adopted on Tuesday encourages the Sierra Leone Government and UN human rights officials to speed up the establishment of the court and a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation commission.

Associated Press news agency says that Foday Sankoh, the imprisoned RUF leader, is expected to be among the first people tried.

Foday Sankoh
Foday Sankoh could stand trial for war crimes

The RUF became notorious for mutilating its victims, either by chopping off body parts such as hands or ears or by carving the initials "RUF" into their chests.

The 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone has killed at least 30,000 people.

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