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U.N. reportedly finalizing new peace plan for Sierra Leone
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook due to arrive in the United States on Thursday, U.S. officials told CNN the U.N. Security Council is putting the final touches on a resolution that lays out a "framework" for peace in Sierra Leone without the involvement of rebel leader Foday Sankoh .
The sources expect the resolution to be introduced in the Security Council next week.
The British-sponsored resolution also proposes an enhanced U.N. peacekeeping force of 16,500 troops, up from the current force of 11,700. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been pushing for a larger peacekeeping force.
It is unclear whether any enhanced force would include U.S. troops.
The resolution also pushes for an arms embargo as well as an embargo against diamonds smuggled by rebel forces, according to sources.
Differences over peacekeepers' mandate
The United States and Britain differ on whether to change the mandate for the U.N. peacekeeping force, officials said.
Britain, which is due to withdraw most of its troops from Sierra Leone next week, favors the current "Chapter 6" mandate, which allows lightly armed peacekeepers to use weapons for self-defense and defending civilians.
But a senior State Department official suggested that a "Chapter 7" mission, which allows a much more robust peace enforcement, might be required.
"We want to look at whether it should be beefed up," the official said.
Another difference being ironed out, officials said, is the folding of Nigerian forces into the U.N. peacekeeping mission, referred to as UNAMSIL.
The U.S. originally preferred a regional force under the West African coalition ECOWAS, but a Western diplomat said, "we all now agree that we should be strengthening the U.N. force, rather than looking at regional military options."
Officials said the resolution "reasserts" objectives contained in the Lome peace accord, signed last year by the Sierra Leone government and RUF rebel leader Sankoh.
The agreement gave Sankoh and several of his followers Cabinet-level positions in a power-sharing government in exchange for an end to the violence.
The similarities to Lome include disarmament and demobilization of the RUF rebels, creating a national army for Sierra Leone, and allowing for government control of all areas of the country.
Where it differs from the Lome accord, officials said, is the removal of any role Sankoh had in achieving those goals.
'Sankoh needs to be brought to justice'
"There is a very clear view in the Security Council that Sankoh needs to be brought to justice," said Catherine MacKenzie, spokeswoman for the British Mission to the United Nations.
"But there is also a wide view in the region that we shouldn't be shutting off options to use him to achieve piece."
Officials said Sankoh is likely to be tried in a Sierra Leone court under national laws for crimes committed against civilians, in accordance with the wishes of the Sierra Leone government.
But still unclear is the role of Sankoh's RUF rebel forces without his leadership.
A U.S. official said the United States is "not confident" that the RUF can be controlled, but he suggested some of the "more moderate elements within the rebels" could be part of "a political process that can achieve some degree of peace."
"One of the questions that remains is whether the RUF has the political will to carry out a legitimate, reasonable peace process to restore stability," he said.
Proposed diamond embargo
Another challenge is to enforce the proposed embargo on diamonds traded by RUF forces. A British official suggests a "willingness on the part of the diamond industry to clamp down on illegal smuggling."
Cook will tell President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah that Britain will work with his government to rebuild the army and choke off the flow of illicit diamonds which funds rebel forces.
The United States finds the mechanism by which the Sierra Leone government certifies diamonds as legitimate, and therefore exempt from the diamond embargo. But U.S. officials said the issue of enforcing an embargo is complex.
"The principle of the embargo against non-certified diamonds is a very valid one," said a senior State Department official. "But the question is how do you do that? A lot of modalities still have to be worked out."
"Achieving a lasting peace in Sierra Leone is a long-term commitment and that is what we are prepared to make," Cook told reporters shortly before arriving in the former British colony.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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