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U.N. council extends Liberia sanctions another year

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Interactive: The U.S. and Liberia
Profile: Charles Taylor
Fact Sheet: Liberia
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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- U.N. sanctions must stay in force in Liberia for now, despite an end to years of civil war, because the West African nation's government and economy remain in shambles, U.N. envoy Jacques Klein said on Monday.

Before lifting the sanctions, which include a ban on diamond and timber exports, the United Nations must be sure Liberia's plentiful natural resources end up benefiting its people, said Klein, who heads the U.N. mission in Liberia.

The proceeds from its rich supply of gold, timber, diamonds, lumber and rubber "should be going for the governance of Liberia and into the treasury of Liberia, and not in the pockets of international speculators," Klein told reporters.

He said he hoped to brief the 15-nation Security Council on the country's progress toward that goal in early February, when an international donors conference to raise some $300 million for Liberian reconstruction is due to take place in New York.

"We hope by that time to have lumber, diamonds, and the (Liberian) maritime registry working in a transparent and proper way," he said.

The council imposed an arms embargo, a ban on diamond exports and a travel ban on former President Charles Taylor and his top associates two and a half years ago after accusing his government of fueling civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone through an illicit guns-for-diamonds trade.

In May, the council renewed those sanctions and added a ban on timber exports, concluding timber sales also were being used by Taylor's regime to drive conflicts in the region.

The council voted unanimously on Monday to extend the sanctions another year, concluding they were needed to help Liberia regain stability after an August peace deal with rebels who had been trying to topple Taylor for three years.

The council hopes the August agreement will help bring to a close more than a decade of intertwined West African conflicts which it accuses Taylor of fueling.

Taylor fled into exile in Nigeria in August, clearing the way for a new transitional government in Liberia and the new U.N. peacekeeping mission headed by Klein, an American.

Klein said just 6,000 of the 15,000 peacekeepers needed in Liberia were in place so far, but he said governments had now agreed to supply the remaining troops, though they were doing so more slowly than he would have liked.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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