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U.N.: Sanctions against Sierra Leone lifted

By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
  • Sierra Leone endured a bloody civil war that ended in 2002
  • Sanctions were imposed during the conflict, including an arms embargo and travel restrictions
  • The U.N. Security Council says the situation has improved

(CNN) -- The United Nations Security Council has ended sanctions against Sierra Leone, restrictions originally imposed during the nation's brutal civil war, the Security Council announced Wednesday.

The Council ended a 1997 arms embargo and a travel ban among other sanctions, in a move aimed at restoring confidence in the West African nation.

While the Security Council praised Sierra Leone for its progress since the end of the decade-long conflict in 2002, it maintained the need for peacekeepers in the formerly war-torn nation.

"Sierra Leone may today no longer be one of your most critical concerns," said Michael von der Schulenburg, head of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone. "But we urge you not to abandon Sierra Leone completely. It is a potential success story, not only for Sierra Leone but for the Security Council."

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice commended the decision to end sanctions.

"Because of the much-improved situation in Sierra Leone, including the work of its special courts and the demobilization of armed groups, the remaining sanctions can now be lifted," she said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of Sierra Leone's 6 million population were believed killed in the war, and more than 2 million were forced to flee their homes amid the mayhem that was fueled by riches from the diamond trade or so called "blood diamonds."