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02 August 2003

Security Council Authorizes Multinational Force for Liberia

Negroponte: "U.S. will do its part to support this endeavor"

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- The Security Council August 1 authorized an international peacekeeping force to pacify the situation in Liberia and prepare for a U.N. mission later in the year.

As a vanguard force of 1,500 troops from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) states prepared to arrive in Freetown August 4, the Security Council adopted a resolution formally establishing a multinational force to support a June cease-fire which has been repeatedly broken. It also asked Secretary General Kofi Annan to prepare a plan for a longer-term U.N. peacekeeping mission that would take over from ECOWAS by October 1, 2003.

The resolution, sponsored by the United States, was adopted by a vote of 12 to 0 with France, Germany, and Mexico abstaining. The three countries, which said they support the peacekeeping operation, abstained over a provision in the resolution that gives immunity to peacekeepers from states not party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) from prosecution by the ICC for war crimes.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said that the council's action "will lend support to the effort to restore peace to Liberia -- respect and enforcement of the cease-fire, and assist in alleviating the very, very difficult humanitarian situation that prevails in that country."
" It will also permit the secretariat to begin planning for the earliest possible deployment of United Nations peacekeepers in the wake of the multinational force," Negroponte said after the vote..

He noted that the resolution was important and timely "in the light of the fact that the ECOWAS units ... are going to start deploying early next week."
The multinational force "can now deploy, confident of the support of the council and the knowledge that planning for a follow-on U.N. peacekeeping force is underway," Negroponte said.

The ECOWAS peacekeepers, the U.S. ambassador said, "will safeguard security in the wake of Charles Taylor's departure from the Liberian presidency. I cannot emphasize how crucial it is for Taylor to leave now."
U.S. marines are also moving to positions off the coast of Liberia, but Negroponte said that it will be up to President Bush as to what role they will play in the peacekeeping effort.

In formal remarks to the council Negroponte said "the United States will do its part to support this endeavor."

He added that the U.S. is pleased to provide support for the two Nigerian battalions that are being deployed first.

Negroponte, the chief U.S. envoy to the U.N., said that U.S. sponsorship of the resolution "reflects the importance that the United States places on finding the right and effective means to bring peace to Liberia. It is our conclusion that an effective response demands intensive involvement by ECOWAS and the international community, anchored by the United Nations."

Declaring that it was "deeply concerned over the conflict in Liberia and its effects on the humanitarian situation," the council adopted the resolution under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter which authorizes the peacekeepers to use force to fulfill their mandate.
Also in the resolution the council declared its readiness to establish a follow-on U.N. stabilization force to support a transitional government and asked Secretary General Kofi Annan to submit his recommendations on the size, structure, and mandate of the U.N. force by August 15 so that it can be deployed no later than October 1.

The council also gave Annan the authority to use funds and resources from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) to provide logistical support for the Nigerian contingents of the ECOWAS vanguard force for up to 30 days. It called on other U.N. members to contribute personnel, equipment and other resources to the multinational force.

The vanguard force of 1,500 will be made of troops from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Mali. The first Nigerian battalion deployed will be transferred from UNAMSIL.
The council also demanded that all nations in the region "refrain from any action that might contribute to instability in Liberia or on the borders between Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cote d'Ivoire." It stressed the need for all Liberian parties who are signatories to the June 17 cease-fire agreement, particularly the rebel groups LURD and MODEL to "immediately and scrupulously uphold the cease-fire and refrain from any attempt to seize power by force."

Annan told journalists after the vote that he hopes the quick action by the council "implies a new political will, a will that, I think, has been absent among the international community."

"Now that this resolution is passed, I hope we will move ahead with urgent and determined action to help the Liberian people," the secretary general said. "I would hope that when the multinational forces get there, it will bring some hope and relief to the Liberian people as we prepare to deploy U.N. peacekeeping operations."
Annan noted that the U.N. has very little time to get nations to commit to sending troops for the U.N. mission and then prepare the troops and equipment for deployment by October 1.

"Historical data indicates that normally we need more time," he said. "The council has put a 1 October deadline. We're going to try and do our best, but we also have to be practical. I hope if there is some delay, everyone will understand it. But we're going to try and do our best."

Last month the secretary general appointed Jacques Klein, an American with extensive U.N. peacekeeping experience in the Balkans, as his special representative to lead and coordinate U.N. activities in Liberia.