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General News of Wednesday, 2 July 2003

Source: gna

UN Mission to West Africa warns against military adventurism

The Head of UN Security Mission to West Africa said on Wednesday that it would be internationally unacceptable for armed groups to seize power in Liberia in apparent reference to the bloody conflict in that country.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, leader of the team, who addressed a pre-departure press conference in Accra after an eight-day duty tour of the 15-member team to Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire, said the Liberian government and the two rebel groups should respect the ceasefire agreement they signed on June 17.

Sir Jeremy said the warning formed part of the principles the mission would recommend to the UN Security Council for consideration. The Council would next week come out with its official position on the issue.

"The Mission expects the Security Council to condemn any breaches of the ceasefire agreement," he said.

Sir Jeremy called for an urgent progress towards a comprehensive political settlement to the crisis that had dragged on for over 12 years and the establishment of a transitional government that would create an enabling condition for a free and fair election.

He said the mission would also recommend to the Council to respect any decision the ECOWAS mediation team led by former Nigerian Head Of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar would take to end the Liberia crisis.

These, he inferred, might include a political decision on the indictment of President Charles Taylor by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in Sierra Leone and an exit of embattled Liberian leader.

He said as a mission they were not in West Africa to mediate or intervene in the negotiation process embarked upon by ECOWAS.

Sir Jeremy said the principle also includes the need for humanitarian aid for the distressed people in Liberia and the creation of the grounds for the respect of women and children.

The Mission also frowned on the recruitment of child soldiers and mercenaries.

The Mission pledged its support to ECOWAS monitoring of arms movement.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the Foreign Minister also stated that Ghana is against the use of force of arms to take over the administration of Liberia.

ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, made another appeal to the US to join an International Stabilisation Force to Liberia that would also include troops from the sub-region, South Africa and Morocco.

He said US could contribute logistics and personnel needs of such a force.

Dr Chambas said the stalemate in the peace talks in Ghana has reversed the 30-day period stipulated in the ceasefire agreement to iron out a political reconciliation, including an interim administration, adding that the period must be extended.

US Ambassador Richard Williamson, who was part of the mission said the issue of US participation in such a force "is under consideration, we will not rule it in or out."

The Mission, which flew back to the US from Accra, could not visit Liberia due to the security situation in the country.

Meanwhile the ECOWAS-led Joint Verification Team (JVT) left Accra on Wednesday for Liberia, via Sierra Leone. The Team would be in Liberia on Thursday to begin mapping out the locations of the belligerent groups.

The 15-member JVT includes representatives of all the three warring - the government, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), the UN, African Union, ECOWAS, and the International Contact Group on Liberia.