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Robin Cook, UK Foreign Secretary
"There remains a long way to go to before Sierra Leone is free from conflict"
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Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Liberia implicated in diamond war

The British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has accused Liberia of helping Sierra Leonean rebels smuggle diamonds to fuel the war in that country.

Mr Cook said the relationship between the Liberian government and the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone should cease.

Mr Cook, who was addressing members of parliament in Britain, said he regretted the fact that there was continuing evidence linking the Revolutionary United Front rebels with the Liberian government of Charles Taylor.

He said the UK was working with the United States and the European Commission to put pressure on Liberia to end those links.

Mr Cook said the United Kingdom was also pressing for an international embargo on the trade in diamonds from Sierra Leone.

Liberian President Charles Taylor
Taylor told to cut links with RUF rebels
He said Britain was exploring with its partners on the UN Security Council a resolution banning the trade in diamonds from Sierra Leone except where they are certified as legitimate by the country's government.

He said only 2% of Sierra Leone diamonds reaching the market were legitimately exported.

The foreign secretary said diamonds had fuelled the rebellion for the past nine years. The people of the country were among the poorest in the world, yet the rebels could purchase vast quantities of arms.

He said that the ultimate objective was for the government of Sierra Leone to take control of the diamond-mining areas, but that in the short term the trade in illicit stones needed bringing under control.

Liberia has led mediation efforts between the rebels and the United Nations for the release of UN hostages.

Most of the released hostages were sent to Liberia, and then to Freetown.

President Taylor has also urged a ceasefire in the campaign against rebels and denounced plans to put the rebel leader Foday Sankoh on trial.

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See also:

15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
26 May 00 | Africa
Still open for diamond business
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