SECURITY COUNCIL TAKES UP REPORT ON DIAMONDS, ARMS IN SIERRA LEONE; EXPERT PANEL SAYS COUNCIL SANCTIONS BROKEN ‘WITH IMPUNITY’

25 January 2001
SC/6997

SECURITY COUNCIL TAKES UP REPORT ON DIAMONDS, ARMS IN SIERRA LEONE; EXPERT PANEL SAYS COUNCIL SANCTIONS BROKEN ‘WITH IMPUNITY’

25/01/2001
Press ReleaseSC/6997

Security Council

4264th Meeting (AM & PM)

SECURITY COUNCIL TAKES UP REPORT ON DIAMONDS, ARMS IN SIERRA LEONE;

EXPERT PANEL SAYS COUNCIL SANCTIONS BROKEN ‘WITH IMPUNITY’

Speakers Call for New Measures to Stem Illicit Traffic;

Liberia Target of ‘Unsubstantiated Allegations’, says Foreign Minister

The Security Council today took up the report of the Panel of Experts it established last July to collect information on violations of the arms embargo concerning Sierra Leone, as well as on the connection between the trade in diamonds and the arms trade.  The Panel, which submitted its report in December, found that Security Council sanctions on both weapons and diamonds are being broken “with impunity.”

The Panel also makes wide-ranging recommendations, calling for, among others:  a global certification scheme for diamonds; an embargo on weapons exports from specific producer countries; a travel ban on senior officials from Liberia; and creation within the United Nations Secretariat of the capacity for the ongoing monitoring of Security Council sanctions.

Twenty-six speakers addressed the Council in the day-long discussion, with many calling for the imposition of new measures that would stem the illicit trade in Sierra Leone diamonds, as well as the flow of illegal weapons into that country.  They also stressed the need to effectively address the role of Liberia and other countries in fuelling the conflict.  Liberia, for its part, was among a number of countries named in the report that expressed disagreement with its findings.

The representative of Sierra Leone said the report’s findings were credible, and that its recommendations were far-reaching, but viable.  It was a landmark discovery of the major impediments to the restoration of peace and stability in his country.  Today, against the background of the painful events of the past several years and the revelations contained in the report, he was compelled to say “enough is enough”.

He said he agreed with the experts that based on “unequivocal and overwhelming evidence”, Liberia had been “actively supporting the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) at all levels in providing training, weapons and related materiel, logistic support, a staging ground for attacks and a safe haven for retreat and recuperation”.  In that regard, he concurred with the Panel that the Council should take effective and appropriate mandatory measures to deal with this serious threat to international peace and security.

The representative of the United Kingdom told the Council that there should be “no sanctuary for sanctions busters”.  Of particular concern was the Panel’s conclusion that Liberian President Charles Taylor was actively involved in fuelling

the violence in Sierra Leone, through both financial and military support that involved diamond smuggling and illicit arms deliveries.  In light of those findings, there could no longer be a shadow of a doubt that President Taylor had been callously prolonging conflict for personal gain.  His recent overtures were “too little too late”.  It was high time for the Council to act.  The United States and the United Kingdom were co-sponsoring a draft resolution that would impose a range of measures designed to pressure President Taylor and his associates to change their ways.

France’s representative said he hoped that the publication of the report and the international community’s awareness of the situation would prompt the Government of Liberia to change its policy.  France supported the establishment of an effective sanctions regime against the Liberian leaders.  Like several other speakers, he emphasized that the measures must be limited in duration and in time.  That would ensure that the Council would be able to review the whole issue in depth and on a regular basis.  The measures must in no way penalize the Liberian population, he stressed.  An incremental approach must be taken.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, Monie R. Captan, said that, despite certain positive initiatives by his Government to restore peace to Sierra Leone, Liberia had continued to be the target of "grossly unsubstantiated allegations" of diamond smuggling and gun running with the rebels.  While it wished to remain constructively engaged in the search for peace, the Government could not continue to be involved, in light of the grave allegations levied against it by the Expert Panel, especially the charge that Liberia had been the primary supplier of arms to the RUF.  Its disengagement policy, which had already led to the removal of all members of the RUF from Liberia, might also include closing its border with Sierra Leone and recusing itself from the peace process. 

He said his Government had reacted to allegations of illicit activities on its border by making concrete proposals to the United Nations to ensure proper monitoring and verification, including the grounding of all Liberian-registered aircraft and the establishment of an appropriate mechanism for the control and monitoring of the diamond trade.  In light of the “very serious” charges made against Liberia and the concrete decisions taken by his Government to address those concerns, he requested the Council's cooperation and support.  That, coupled with regional initiatives, would yield far greater positive results than the imposition of punitive measures.

Anwarul Karim Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1132 (1997) concerning Sierra Leone, introduced the Panel of Experts report and provided an overview of the Panel’s work. 

Statements were also made by the representatives of Jamaica, Mali, Colombia, Tunisia, China, Russian Federation, Ireland, United States, Mauritius, Ukraine, Norway, Singapore, Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Canada, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Cote d’Ivoire, Belgium and the Niger, as well as the observer from Switzerland.

The meeting was called to order at 10:20 a.m. and suspended at 1:10 p.m.  It resumed at 3:15 p.m. and adjourned at 4:17 p.m.

Council Work Programme

When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the report of the Panel of Experts concerning Sierra Leone (document S/2000/1195).  The report of the Panel, which was established by the Council in July 2000, provides information on possible violations of the arms embargo imposed by paragraph 2 of resolution 1171 (1998) and the link between trade in diamonds and trade in arms and related materiel, as well as the adequacy of air traffic control systems in the region.  The report is preceded by a letter from the Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1132 (1997) concerning Sierra Leone, of which the Panel of Experts is a subsidiary organ.

Paragraph 2 of resolution 1171 (1998) stipulates that all States shall prevent the sale or supply, by their nationals or from their territories, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types to Sierra Leone other than to the Government of Sierra Leone through named points of entry on a list to be supplied by that country's Government to the Secretary-General.

In the report, the Panel makes a variety of specific recommendations that deal with diamonds, weapons and the use of aircraft for sanctions-busting and the movement of illicit weapons.  Many of these recommendations and the problems they address are related to the primary supporter of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), which is Liberia -- its President, its Government and the individuals and companies it does business with.  The Panel notes with concern that Security Council resolutions on diamonds and weapons are being broken with impunity.

The report states that diamonds have become an important resource for the RUF in sustaining and advancing its military ambitions.  Estimates of the volume of RUF diamonds vary widely, from as little as $25 million per annum to as much as $125 million.  Whatever the total, it represents a major and primary source of income for the RUF, and is more than enough to sustain its military activities.

In order to better regulate the flow of rough diamonds from producing countries, a global certification scheme based on the system now adopted in Sierra Leone is imperative, the Panel states.  This will give added impetus to current discussions on this subject, if the Security Council endorses the concept of a global system. 

In the short run, and in the absence of a global system, it is recommended that certification systems similar to that adopted by Sierra Leone be required of all diamond-exporting countries in West Africa, with special and immediate reference to Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, as a protective measure for their indigenous industries and to prevent their exposure to conflict diamonds.  If this has not been completed within a period of six months, the Security Council should impose an international embargo on diamonds from these countries.

The Panel further recommends a complete embargo on all diamonds from Liberia, until Liberia demonstrates convincingly that it is no longer involved in the trafficking of arms to, or diamonds from, Sierra Leone.  The ban should not be lifted until this condition has been met, and until Liberia too has joined the proposed standardized certification system.  The Security Council should place an immediate embargo on trade in all so-called Gambian diamonds, until such time as its exports of diamonds can be reconciled with imports.

Other diamond-exporting countries in the region have been designated by the Belgian Government as “sensitive” countries, where special attention to imports is required.  In addition to the three countries suffering directly from conflict diamonds and those mentioned above, these include Uganda, Central African Republic, Ghana, Namibia, Congo (Brazzaville), Mali, Zambia and Burkina Faso.  This list is commended to other major importing countries, including Switzerland, South Africa, India, Israel, United Kingdom and the United States.

The Panel further recommends that it is essential, and a matter of urgency, that major trading centres (Belgium, United Kingdom, Switzerland, South Africa, India, United States and Israel) come to a common agreement on the recording and public documentation of rough diamond imports that is consistent from one country to another, and that clearly designates the country of origin, in addition to country of provenance.  An annual statistical production report should be compiled by each exporting country and gathered into a central annual report, compiled by the World Diamond Council and/or by the certification body that is expected to emerge from the “Kimberly Process” of intergovernmental negotiation.  Countries of origin must be distinguished from countries of provenance.

Despite an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) moratorium on arms shipments to West Africa, the region is awash with small arms, the report states.  Guerrilla armies receive weapons through interlinked networks of traders, criminals and insurgents moving across borders.  Systematic information on weapons smuggling in the region is non-existent, and information that could be used to combat the problem on a regional scale -- through ECOWAS or through bilateral exchanges -- is generally not available.  Few States in the region have the resources or the infrastructure to tackle smuggling.

The role of aircraft in the RUF’s supply chain is vital, especially over the past two years, as their sphere of influence in Sierra Leone has widened.  It is known that the RUF was supplied by helicopter on a sporadic basis before 1997, and on a regular basis since then.  Helicopters originating in Liberia land at Buedu, Kailahun, Makeni, Yengema, Tumbudu and elsewhere in Kono District.

Liberia is actively breaking Security Council embargoes regarding weapons imports into its own territory and into Sierra Leone, the Panel states.  It is being actively assisted by Burkina Faso and tacitly assisted by countries allowing weapons to pass through or over their territory without question, and by those countries that provide a base for the aircraft used in such operations.

The Panel strongly recommends that all aircraft operating with an EL-registration number and based at airports other than in Liberia, should be grounded immediately and until the provisions in the following recommendation are met.  This includes planes based in Sharjah and other airports in the United Arab Emirates, in Congo (Brazzaville), in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Angola, Rwanda and Kenya.  Airport authorities and operators of planes registered in Liberia over the past five years should be advised to keep all their documentation, log books, operating licences, way bills and cargo manifests for inspection.

It is further recommended that all operators of aircraft on the Liberian register, wherever they are based, be required to file their airworthiness and operating licences and their insurance documents with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) headquarters in Montreal, Canada, including documentation on inspections carried out during the past five years.  The aircraft of all operators failing to do so should be grounded permanently.  Aircraft that do not meet ICAO standards should be grounded permanently.

Burkina Faso has recently recommended that the Security Council supervise a proposed mechanism that would monitor all arms imports into its territory, and their use, for a period of three years, the report notes.  The Panel endorses this proposal.  The Panel also recommends that under such a mechanism, all imports of weapons and related materiel into Burkina Faso over the past five years be investigated.

The Security Council should encourage ECOWAS member States to enter into binding bilateral arrangements between States with common frontier zones, to initiate an effective, common and internationally agreed system of control that includes the recording, licensing, collection and destruction of small arms and light weapons.  These bilateral arrangements can be promoted and facilitated through ECOWAS and through the Programme for Coordination and Assistance for Security and Development.

Responsibility for the flood of weapons into West Africa lies with producing countries, as well as those that trans-ship and use them, the Panel states.  The Security Council must find ways of restricting the export of weapons, especially from eastern Europe, into conflict areas under regional or United Nations embargoes.  “Naming and shaming” is a first step, but consideration could be given to placing an embargo on weapons exports from specific producer countries, just as diamonds have been embargoed from producer countries, until internationally acceptable certification schemes have been developed.

The Panel recommends that an analysis of the firearms recovered from rebels be undertaken in cooperation with the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and its International Weapons and Explosives Tracking System.  This would help in further identifying those involved in the RUF supply line.  The World Customs Organization should be asked to share with the Security Council its views on creating adequate measures for better monitoring and detection of weapons or related materiel to non-State actors or countries under an arms embargo.  Current Security Council arms embargoes should be amended to include a clear ban on the provision of military and paramilitary training.

Statements

ANWARUL KARIM CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh), Chairman of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1132 (1997) concerning Sierra Leone, introduced the Panel of Experts’ report and provided an overview of the Panel’s work.  He said he was happy to note that the Panel had been very careful with the information it had used to substantiate its findings.  The Panel had required at least two credible direct sources of information on an issue before its inclusion in the report as a finding.  The Panel had taken that approach because the issues under investigation needed to be looked at carefully and objectively. 

He said the report detailed the findings of the Panel in three major areas  -– diamonds, weapons, and transport and air traffic control in West Africa.  On diamonds, the Panel had collected information in part one of the report on illegal exploitation of Sierra Leone diamonds and its new diamond certification system.  It had also collected information on the international diamond statistics and transit countries.  Based on its findings, the Panel had made specific recommendations.

In part two of the report, the Panel had collected information on weapons and related materiel, transport and air traffic control in the West Africa region.  The Panel had also made specific recommendations in that regard.  

Apart from the proactive role of the Council, international cooperation and solidarity were needed for realizing many of the Panel’s recommendations, he said.  In particular, the need for the development of a better regulatory framework for the air traffic control systems in the region could not be done without cooperation, and both technical and financial assistance were needed.  A comprehensive approach was essential, he stressed.

Follow-up actions on the recommendations were a very important area where the Council must put emphasis, he added.  The Council could adopt various approaches in considering the recommendations of the Panel and determining follow-up actions.  All of the recommendations contained in the Panel report should get full, due and thorough consideration.  The effort and resources dedicated to this exercise should not be wasted.

STEWART ELDON (United Kingdom) said he strongly welcomed the Panel’s endorsement of the concept of a global certification scheme for rough diamonds.  In that context, he strongly supported last year’s General Assembly resolution on conflict diamonds, which his country had co-sponsored.  He wanted a simple, workable international framework in place at an early date, aimed at protecting the legitimate diamond trade and enhancing its reputation, while dealing a “death-blow” to the illicit diamond trade.

He said he also supported the Panel’s recommendation for the Government of Sierra Leone to act to enhance the credibility of their certification regime.  The necessary steps included auditing dealers, developing support systems to bring small artisanal miners into the formal diamond industry, and developing transparent methods of ensuring that diamond profits were used to benefit the people of Sierra Leone.  His country would like to see a greatly enhanced capacity within the United Nations’ Secretariat for supporting the Council and the Sanctions Committees on all aspects of sanctions.

Concerning the role of arms exporting countries, he urged all Member States exporting arms to make thorough checks on the proposed end-use of arms exports at the time of licensing.  Those checks should include querying suspect end-user certificates with the countries concerned and circulating details of false end-user certificates to other countries for information.  He supported the Panel's recommendation for closer cooperation between the Council and the World Customs Organization. 

The report usefully identified a number of individuals and companies involved in sanctions violations, and a number of countries from whose territory such violations were taking place, he said.  As such, his country would look very seriously at any hint that its citizens and companies might be involved in violating sanctions, and would investigate fully where necessary.  He urged other States to do the same, and to ensure that sanctions violations were a criminal offence in their domestic legislation.

He said he was alarmed at the malignant role played by individuals, such as Victor Bout, in the illicit arms supply chain.  The governments of all Member States must ensure that their territory was not being use as a base for the operations of such people.  There should be “no sanctuary for sanctions busters”.  Of particular concern was the Panel’s conclusion that Liberian President Charles Taylor was actively involved in fuelling the violence in Sierra Leone, through both financial and military support.  The Panel had also found that the bulk of RUF diamonds were smuggled out of the country through Liberia, and that Liberian-registered aircraft were being used for illicit arms deliveries. 

In light of those findings, he said, there could no longer be a shadow of a doubt that President Taylor had been callously prolonging conflict for personal gain.  As a result, tens of thousands of innocents had been killed or maimed.  That could not be allowed to continue.  The President’s recent overtures to the international community were “too little too late”.  Meanwhile, there were increasing reports of Liberian support for recent attacks by the rebel movement in Guinea, which had left hundreds dead.  Liberian actions were threatening the stability of the entire region.  It was high time for the Council to act.

The United States and the United Kingdom were co-sponsoring a draft resolution which would impose, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, a range of measures on Liberia designed to put effective pressure on President Taylor and his associates to change their ways.  The measures had been carefully crafted to have minimal consequences for ordinary Liberians, while making Liberian support of the RUF more difficult.  Those include a ban on Liberian rough diamonds, a ban on flights by Liberian-registered aircraft, a new arms embargo, a selective travel ban on senior Liberian officials and a ban on the import of Liberian timber.

Ultimately, he said, it was up to President Taylor to recognize that he could not longer hide behind statements of innocence.  The quicker he realized that and showed a commitment to the well-being of the Liberian people and regional peacekeeping operations, the sooner Liberia could be brought back into the international hold. 

CURTIS WARD (Jamaica) said serious consideration should be given to the recommendation of the Panel that the Council establish an ongoing capacity to monitor the implementation of sanctions, as well as study their unintended effects on third parties and individuals.  Those who had aided in violating sanctions were equally culpable for the humanitarian tragedy still unfolding in Sierra Leone, and pressure must be brought to bear by the international community to ensure compliance with Council resolutions.

His delegation believed that whatever punitive measures were adopted by the Council must have minimum collateral effect on unintended targets and must be precisely aimed at those who had been unambiguously implicated in sanctions violations.  A broad-brush approach would have little support from his delegation.  The measures recommended by the Panel would only be effective if all Member States adhered to the terms of the sanctions resolutions.  It was owed to the people of Sierra Leone to ensure that the country’s riches were used for the development of the country and not to perpetuate war.

JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE (France) said all parties involved should give thought to the way in which organized crime that took advantage of Sierra Leone and other conflicts could be stopped.  France particularly appreciated two of the general recommendations in the report and hoped for concrete follow-up.  The first concerned the extension of the Sierra Leone diamond certification regime.  The experts had expressed their hope that this regime would be modelled on the so-called “Kimberley Process”, and France supported that idea.  France also supported the idea that the regime should be extended to cover neighbouring countries.

The second recommendation concerned better monitoring of the exportation of small arms by the producing countries, he said.  The reinforcement of customs control, with the support of the international community, was a priority. 

He said he hoped that the publication of the report and the international community’s awareness of the situation would prompt the Government of Liberia to change its policy with regard to the situation.  France supported the establishment of an effective sanctions regime against the Liberian leaders.  Those measures must be limited in duration.  That would ensure that the Council would be able to review the whole issue in depth and on a regular basis.  The measures must in no way penalize the Liberian population, he stressed, and they must not interfere with any possible ECOWAS-negotiated solution.  An incremental approach must be taken.

MOCTAR OUANE (Mali) welcomed the upcoming meeting between the Council and ECOWAS delegations.  There was great concern over the conflict that was “ripping apart” West Africa, flowing from the broadening conflict in Sierra Leone.  The United Nations and ECOWAS must work together to return peace to the entire region.  In its partnership with the Council, everything possible would be done to resolve the Sierra Leone conflict. 

ALFONSO VALDIVIESO (Colombia) said that the relationship between diamonds and weapons was a topic of interest to many States, especially the role that diamonds played in fuelling conflict.  The Expert Panel had focused not only on the link between the diamond trade and weapons purchases, but on the aircraft being used to transport those items.  Regarding the specific recommendations, it was morally repugnant that the diamond mines in Sierra Leone should also serve as a cause of suffering to its people, while, at the same time, serve as a symbol of wealth among other people. 

He said that, although the participation of Sierra Leone in world trade was relatively small, when added to the share of other countries in conflict, it had acquired far-ranging dimensions with regard to global peace and security. He, therefore, congratulated the Government of Sierra Leone in its establishment of a diamond certification system.  A worldwide system should also be established.  He deplored the fact that some countries mentioned in the Panel’s report had refused to provide their national diamond export statistics to the experts.  The Council should encourage their cooperation and the adoption of a certification system along the lines of that in place in Sierra Leone.

The diamond-importing countries should also apply greater controls, he said.  It was crucial to reduce the statistical disharmony and diminish the number of illegal operations, as well as reduce the share of those diamonds in the jewelry stores of wealthier countries.  The sanctions imposed by the Council were “our own” contribution towards restoring peace to Sierra Leone.

Regarding the recommendations pertaining to weapons, effective means must be found to reduce the inflows of weapons to West Africa, whose countries had imposed a moratorium on small arms imports.  The responsibility of the flood of weapons, however, rested with the producer countries.  It was their duty to strengthen measures to limit the inflow of weapons to West Africa.  They bore a special responsibility, as they were the first able to monitor transactions directed to conflict areas or those under Security Council embargoes.  The producer nations should not hide behind the excuse that they were producing those weapons in foreign factories.  The very high number of child soldiers employed in the Sierra Leone conflict was closely connected to the easy availability of increasingly light weapons.

He said he had recognized the difficulties encountered by the authorities in charge of controlling aviation in West African countries, when it came to monitoring the operation of aircraft used to transport weapons throughout the region.  The Council should ask for a more transparent registry for ships and aircraft, and the ICAO should also be more actively involved.  Concerning the recommendations on Liberia, he was deeply worried that the natural resources of that country had been compromised in order to fuel mining operations. 

Continuing, he said that the Liberian Government must be aware that the Council required the cooperation of all West African countries in the promotion of regional peace and security.  The Council was prepared to act sternly with respect to any sanctions violations against the RUF.  In terms of monitoring sanctions, access must continue to be denied to the arms and diamond market that were enemies of peace in Sierra Leone.  The capacity of the United Nations’ Secretariat to monitor sanctions and embargoes must be strengthened. 

SAID BEN MUSTAPHA (Tunisia) said the problem of the illicit trade in diamonds necessitated an expert and global approach to the problem -– one that took into account the entire chain of actors.  It should attempt to tighten the noose around the product itself –- the diamonds.  He supported the need to set up a general system of certification, as well as the need to set up an organ to continuously monitor sanctions. 

The approach needed to control the inflow of weapons should not be a selective one, he said.  The producing countries also had a responsibility, along with those that aided in the transit of such weapons.  As had been proposed, the Council should supervise a mechanism to monitor the import of all weapons into Burkina Faso for a three-year period. 

The Council’s approach to the imposition of new measures should be incremental and based on dialogue, while avoiding aiding in any way to the suffering of the civilian population, he said.  The measures should only concern the target area -– illegal trade in diamonds and arms.  Sanctions should be tailored to specific objectives.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that, as was noted in the report, violations of sanctions in the region were quite serious.  Illegal trade in diamonds had become an important way for the RUF to continue its activities.  Illegal arms were also a problem.  Long after Council resolutions had been adopted, the situation continued to be very serious.  The most urgent task was to take urgent measures to curb the illegal trade in arms and diamonds.  The Council and the international community must work harder to promote peace.  Decisive measures to cut off outside support for the RUF must be taken.  All countries should cooperate and coordinate in that regard. 

While there were many good recommendations put forward by the Panel that should be considered and implemented, any sanctions must be well targeted, he said.  Any negative humanitarian impact must be avoided, and there must be a time limit.  Sanctions were not the only means available to address the conflict.  The Council must play a role in seeking an overall and comprehensive settlement.

ANDREI GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) noted the progress being made concerning the certification of diamonds in Sierra Leone.  Nevertheless, much remained to be done in order to enhance the effectiveness of the sanctions regime.  Moreover, time was needed for those measures to have an impact on the ability of the RUF to continue armed conflict.  The Panel’s report contained much useful detailed information, bringing together an unprecedented volume of material.  At the same time, some recommendations and conclusions were “too radical” in nature and exceeded the Panel’s mandate, as determined by the Council. 

Regrettably, he said, there was no fully developed provision about how to work with certain States in enhancing the effect of the sanctions regime against Sierra Leone, including within the context of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and ECOWAS.  He fully shared the concern over the role being played by the illegal mining and exportation of diamonds from Sierra Leone in financing continued armed conflict there.  In that connection, it was advisable to introduce certification systems for rough diamonds in a number of African countries, based on national control mechanisms.

At the same time, however, he said he doubted whether the proposed six-month period for introducing and establishing such certification regimes was enough.  There was also the question of how to pay for such a measure, since the States named in the report were unlikely to be able to do so.  Obviously, donors would have to become involved.  Further, it was absolutely unacceptable to raise in the report the establishment of an international certification system for rough diamonds.  So far, no broad consensus had emerged.  Solving the problem of conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone and other conflict areas should be focused on measures to break the link between the illicit traffic and the financing of rebel movements, and should not involve participants in the legal diamond business.

The Council had not authorized the Panel to get involved in the complex intergovernmental negotiating process, which involved the very serious economic and financial interests of States and companies, which were not always the same. The Panel had certainly not been authorized to recommend to the Council that it comes out in favour of any parties to that dialogue.  Further analysis was needed on the package of sanctions recommended in the report.  Particular account of the views of ECOWAS should be considered.

RICHARD RYAN (Ireland) said the Panel’s recommendations were numerous and, in places, far-reaching.  Some of them would be easier to implement than others.  Some of them might be more effective than others.  However, that should not cause the international community to shy away from looking at the report in its totality, as the next steps were considered.  He stressed that concerted action needed to be taken both in the region and in places far away from West Africa.

He welcomed the introduction of a new diamond certification system by the authorities in Sierra Leone.  It was a concrete measure to address the problem of conflict and illicit diamonds.  He noted, however, the Panel’s comments on the certification system’s viability in the absence of similar controls in neighbouring countries.  The role of Sierra Leone’s neighbours was crucial in that regard.

He said it would not be credible to address the report without referring to the “truly grave” allegations levelled at the Government of Liberia.  Ireland would support a draft resolution the Council was considering aimed at bringing an end to the destabilizing activities of the Liberian Government.

JAMES B. CUNNINGHAM (United States) said that the Panel had had only four months in which to complete its tasks, yet it succeeded in addressing several complex issues involving networks and operations that made a point of either “disguising” or “hiding” their activities.  Controlling the illicit diamond and arms flows was essential to ending the fighting and the destabilization in Sierra Leone and its neighbours.  He was intent on ending the illicit trade in “arms-for-diamonds” that had caused so much devastation and human suffering in Sierra Leone and throughout West Africa.

Regrettably, he said, the Council had received a report that was critical of one of its founding members.  It was particularly troubling for the United States that Liberia –- which once had championed the cause of Namibian independence –- was complicit in the dismemberment of Sierra Leone and the destabilization of Guinea.  The Council had begun consideration of a resolution to impose new multilateral sanctions against the Liberian Government. 

He said that the measures proposed in the draft were against the Government and designed to end President Taylor’s ongoing support of the RUF and his continued engagement in the illicit trafficking in arms-for-diamonds.  The goal of the proposed sanctions was to target the support system of the presidency and government leadership, and each proposal was selected with that in mind.  His country had not sought those restrictive measures out of animosity towards the Liberian people. 

His own country's deep historical roots to Liberia were well known in the Council, he continued.  The thousands of American development workers, Peace Corps volunteers, missionaries and other friends who had served the Liberian people were saddened to see what had become of the country that had once welcomed them.  The tens of thousands of American citizens of Liberian origin now residing in the United States were justifiably concerned for their country of origin, and their families and friends. 

He said his country had been forced to support new measures against the Liberian Government because of its illegal support for insurgents in Sierra Leone, its use of one of the world’s most repugnant insurgencies as a proxy, and its illegal exploitation of the natural wealth of Sierra Leone.  He would examine closely the recent announcements of the Liberian Government that it was disengaging from Sierra Leone, but he was concerned that those last-minute announcements, in the face of imminent Council action, were a “calculated ruse” designed to divide the Council, rather than to signal any genuine policy change.

Continuing, he said that it was instructive that it took the possibility of sanctions to move the Liberian Government to even hortatory action.  The steps announced, thus far, however, were unconvincing.  The Liberian Government now sustained the RUF.  The Council’s mission to the region in October had clearly heard, and warned about, Liberia’s role.  Liberia and its proxies were looting Sierra Leone’s natural resources.  Overall, its behaviour was key to regional instability, and must be changed. 

The proposed sanctions mirrored those recommended by the Expert Panel, he said.  They were designed to undermine the Liberian Government’s ability to conduct war against its neighbours and would not visit any hardships on the Liberian people.  Indeed, several courageous Liberians had risked their lives to call on the Council to adopt those sanctions against their own Government. 

He said that the Experts Panel clearly established the links between ongoing Liberian support for the RUF and continued violence and suffering in Sierra Leone and the region.  The Council must act to “break that link” and to re-establish regional peace and stability in a region beset for too many years with conflict and human hardship. 

ANUND PRIYAY NEEWOOR (Mauritius) said it was not without a sense of revolt that he noted from the Panel’s findings that the misery inflicted on the people of Sierra Leone by the rebel forces was not for a legitimate cause, but was actually for the self-enrichment of individuals and their friends.  The international community could not afford to allow the diamond-arms-politics nexus to cross yet another frontier, be it in Africa or elsewhere.  The phenomenon was too costly in every respect. 

He said it was already well known that the Sierra Leone sanctions were being violated with impunity by vested interests in the illicit diamond trade and suppliers of arms to the rebels.  His delegation had carefully examined the recommendations made by the Panel and believed that they were appropriate.  If any party felt aggrieved, it should have the opportunity to explain to the Council within a specified time frame.  He underlined the need for the Council to take action as quickly as possible on the Panel’s recommendations.

VALERI KUCHYNSKI (Ukraine) said he wished to draw attention to the recent decisions by the Liberian Government to ground all Liberian-registered aircraft, as well as its proposal to establish for Liberia a United Nations-supervised monitoring regime for diamonds and the arms trade.  Further measures were also being considered at the regional level by member States of ECOWAS.  All of those developments clearly demonstrated that the work of the Panel had already had a visible effect.  Hopefully, those developments, coupled with the responsible approach by the Council, would help advance the peace process there.

At the same time, he said, a number of the recommendations were rather controversial and should be considered from the point of view of their consistency with both the original mandate of the Panel and the work being done in other forums.  For example, the recommendations that consideration should be given to the Council’s embargo on weapons exports from specific producer countries until internationally acceptable certification schemes were developed should be dealt with in the specific competent forums.  His country had initially put forward a proposal to convene an international experts’ meeting of major arms-producing countries, with a view to elaborating effective measures to prevent the resale of arms from the end-users to third parties. 

He noted that the Panel had extensively examined the case of the Burkina Faso delivery of Ukrainian weapons in 1999.  The report confirmed that a Ukrainian license for sale of the weaponry had been granted after the Ukrainian authorities had received an authentic end-user certificate from the Ministry of Defence of Burkina Faso.  His country, on its own initiative, had twice provided to the Sierra Leone Sanctions Committee detailed information related to that shipment. The results of an investigation in Ukraine had proved that the delivery had been made in full compliance with its own domestic legislation and the relevant Security Council requirements.  His Government, on several occasions, had expressed its grave concern at reports that the shipment had been subsequently  re-exported in violation of Council resolutions.

Regarding the references in the report to the mercenary activities of Ukrainian nationals, he said his delegation had formally requested the Committee’s assistance in obtaining all information in the Panel’s possession to facilitate a criminal investigation of the facts by Ukraine.  The Committee had also been informed that mercenary activities were prohibited under Unkrainian law.  His Government’s decision to provide more than 500 peacekeepers and 400 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and trucks to the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) was a concrete illustration of its commitment to assisting the Sierra Leonean Government and the international community in bringing peace and stability to that war-torn country. 

WEGGER STROMMEN (Norway) said the regional aspects of the conflict in Sierra Leone gave reason for great concern.  He had carefully studied the recommendations in the Panel’s report.  Sanctions were an important tool for the Council and the international community in the efforts to protect international peace and security.  They should, however, be used with caution, and they must be shaped so that they targeted the real problem at hand.  Consequently, steps should be taken to help ensure that the sanctions did not have unwanted side effects; for example on the civilian population.

He stressed the importance of the general responsibility of Member States to implement the obligations deriving from United Nations resolutions establishing sanctions regimes.  Although countries that bordered conflict areas were acting in contempt of the sanctions regime, countries in Europe and other Western States must also pay heed to the fact that the importation of illicit diamonds from Africa and exportation of arms from Europe to non-State actors, fuelled conflicts.

He added that his delegation supported further consideration of the establishment of a general monitoring mechanism.  The creation of a central capacity within the United Nations Secretariat for ongoing monitoring of adherence to Council sanctions and embargoes could be a useful tool.

The Council President, KISHORE MAHBUBANI (Singapore), speaking in his national capacity, said that the report’s recommendations were “sobering”, particularly in relation to the allegations made against Liberia, including its support for the activities of the RUF and its role in fuelling the conflict in Sierra Leone.  The situation in Sierra Leone had been on the Council’s agenda for some years, and the civilian population had endured more than 10 years of “shocking brutality, failed peace agreements, and the murder, rape and mutilation of thousands in the hands of the RUF”.  If the Panel’s recommendations were implemented, they would be the most serious and comprehensive United Nations embargo imposed on an African country in recent times.

He said that sanctions were an important tool of the Council in carrying out its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.  It was the obligation of all members to comply with such sanctions, but the Council must “give teeth” to them and ensure that States did not violate them with impunity.  The credibility of the United Nations demanded that the Council deal firmly with sanctions-busters and those who supported or participated in activities aimed at undermining the stability of their neighbours.  The Council should act quickly and justly.  It should not flinch from acting resolutely and taking all necessary measures once such a course of action was clearly justified.

IBRAHIM M’BABA KAMARA (Sierra Leone) said the report’s findings were credible, and its recommendations were far-reaching and viable.  It was a landmark discovery of the major impediments to the restoration of peace and stability in his country.  Today, against the background of the painful events of the past several years, the revelations contained in the report, and the serious humanitarian crisis now emerging along the borders of the Mano River Union States, he was compelled to say “enough is enough”.

He said his delegation agreed with the experts that, based on “unequivocal and overwhelming evidence”, Liberia had been “actively supporting the RUF at all levels in providing training, weapons and related materiel, logistic support, a staging ground for attacks and a safe haven for retreat and recuperation”.  In that regard, his delegation concurred with the Panel that the Council should take effective and appropriate mandatory measures to deal with this serious threat to international peace and security.

He said that, to those who had reservations about the recommendations in the report, his delegation wished to note that there were thousands of Sierra Leonean refugees and displaced persons who were unable to return to their homes because of the conflict and the escalation of cross-border skirmishes.  The people of Sierra Leone, including traumatized victims of the rebel war, were suffering as a result of the continued occupation of the main diamond areas of the country by the RUF, and the illegal export of diamonds from those areas, mainly through Liberia.

He noted that Sierra Leone itself was under certain constraints as a result of existing mandatory Security Council measures relating to arms and diamonds.  He assured members, however, that the people of his country consider such constraints as temporary hurdles along the path towards peace and security.  His delegation had no doubt that endorsement by the Council and implementation of most of the measures proposed by the Panel would help to bring about genuine peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and stability in the entire West African subregion.

MONIE R. CAPTAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liberia, said that it should be recalled that the involvement of his country in the resolution of conflict in Sierra Leone had been the result of an ECOWAS mandate, issued in Bamako.  In addition, his Government could not have been an uninterested bystander.  Liberia and Sierra Leone shared common historical, cultural, and family ties, as well as a common border.  Liberia was hosting more than 100,000 Sierra Leonean refugees, as a result of the civil conflict.  There could be no peace and stability in Liberia until there was enduring peace and stability in Sierra Leone and other neighbouring countries. 

He said that it should also be recalled that, at the request of ECOWAS and the United Nations, the Liberian President had negotiated the release of more than 500 United Nations peacekeepers that had been taken hostage by the RUF.  In addition, Liberia had permitted RUF delegations going to ECOWAS-sponsored meetings to transit through its territory.  It had also permitted RUF officials to hold meetings on its territory with officials of ECOWAS and the United Nations.  Moreover, the appointment of a new interlocutor and RUF leadership had been the result of an initiative of the Liberian President.  Those efforts, among others, by Liberia’s President, had been undertaken with the sole objective of furthering the peace process in Sierra Leone.

Notwithstanding those initiatives, he said, the Liberian Government had been and continued to be the “target of grossly unsubstantiated allegations” of diamond smuggling and gun running with the RUF.  On the diamonds issue, his Government could neither deny nor confirm that the war in Sierra Leone was being financed by the sale of conflict diamonds.  It could confirm, however, that it was not connected, nor was it a party to, the illicit diamond trade of Sierra Leonean diamonds.  If, as claimed in the report, his Government was exporting and selling $217 million worth of diamonds annually to Belgium, the Panel had failed to provide evidence of a trail of financial transactions implicating his Government.

In addition, he said, no one familiar with the diamond industry would agree with the Panel that the pre-conflict value of Sierra Leone’s annual production was anywhere near $450 million.  Smuggling was endemic to the global diamond industry, and was not limited to Sierra Leone.  Historically, his country had faced the problem, and previous governments had been unable to adequately address it.  Liberia found itself in a much weaker position, having recently emerged from a disastrous seven-year civil war that completely destroyed basic national infrastructure.  The problem had been further exacerbated by the Government’s lack of resources and personnel, including customs, immigration, transport and communications.

Depending on which figure was used, between 80 and 90 per cent of Liberia’s domestic diamond production was smuggled out of the country, he went on.  That should refute the conclusion reached in the report that “it is not conceivable that so much of Liberia’s own diamond production could avoid the detection of Government”.  With regard to arms supply to the RUF, the Panel had erroneously concluded that virtually all of RUF’s weapons had been obtained from external sources, specifically, Liberia.  At the same time, the Panel had found that, among the considerable amounts of weaponry seized from the Sierra Leone Armed Forces, a “significant” number of those weapons had been seized from a Guinean UNAMSIL unit.  Other Guinean units serving under the Economic Community of West African States’ Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) had also previously been disarmed during ambushes and seizures.

In addition, he continued, the RUF had obtained weapons directly from the Sierra Leone Army inventory when the Armed Forces Revolutionary United Council had assumed power in May 1997 and entered into a power-sharing arrangement with the RUF.  The Sierra Leonean Government might also have been a source of supply to the RUF when it requested two waivers of the provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on the Moratorium on Small Arms on 18 and 23 June 2000.  The waivers were to permit the importation of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ammunition rounds.  Given the pattern of events in Sierra Leone, it was not unreasonable to assume that a “substantial portion” of those shipments also ended up in the RUF’s hands.

Continuing, he said that the report confirms that additional arms shipments were received by the RUF from neighbouring Guinea based on RUF diamond sales made to “mid-level Guinean military officers”.  It further admitted that the RUF had received weapons captured from ECOMOG forces that had fallen victim to various ambushes.  Given all of those well-documented non-Liberian sources of arms received by the RUF, it was “unfair and erroneous” that the Panel would conclude that the primary supplier of arms received by the RUF was Liberia and that such an arms flow was the result of official Liberian policy.

He said his Government acknowledged that it maintained a training base in Gbartala, Bong County, Liberia, which provided much-needed training facilities for its internal security organizations, including the unit that provided protection of foreign embassies and sensitive government installations.  His Government was currently engaged in discussions with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide workshops on humanitarian law at the training base.  It must be re-emphasized that his Government did not train any foreigners at that facility. 

The Liberian Government had reacted to allegations of illicit activities on its border by making concrete proposals to the United Nations to ensure proper monitoring and verification, he said.  On 22 January, it had decided to ground all Liberian-registered aircraft and requested the ICAO to notify the civil aviation authorities of all Member States of that action.  The Government had also revoked the appointment of all agents acting on its behalf in matters of aircraft inspection and registration.  Those measures were taken in recognition of the fact that many aircraft flew the Liberian flag without the knowledge or authorization of the Government, which had sought the assistance of ICAO in providing technical assistance to improve its capacity in air traffic control and surveillance.

While it was his Government’s desire to continue to be constructively engaged in the search for peace in Sierra Leone, he said that it was equally true that the Government could not continue engagement in the “midst of the grave allegations levied against it” by the Experts Panel, especially the charge that Liberia had not played a constructive role in Sierra Leone.  Thus, his Government had embarked upon an alternative policy of disengagement from Sierra Leone.  Consistent with that policy, all RUF members had been asked to leave Liberia and all had done so, with the exception of Sam Bockarie whose return to Sierra Leone had been rejected by the RUF leadership. 

Cognizant of the ongoing constructive dialogue between the RUF and UNAMSIL, the confidence-building visits into RUF-held territory, the opening of roads,

and ongoing discussions concerning the deployment of UNAMSIL forces into RUF-held territory, his Government -– occasioned by the return of Mr. Bockarie –- had engaged the ECOWAS Chairman in discussions aimed at identifying a third country

to accept him.  The transiting of RUF members through Liberian territory would

no longer be permitted, nor would they be allowed to attend meetings on Liberian territory.  The Liberian Government was prepared to take further actions to close its border with Sierra Leone, and to recuse itself from all discussions on the peace process, should the international community deem that necessary.

Furthermore, he said that his Government, cognizant of the complex problems associated with the monitoring and control of diamond trading on its territory and the subregion, had decided to seek the assistance and cooperation of the United Nations in putting into place an appropriate mechanism for the control and monitoring of the diamond trade.  Ongoing cross-border armed incursions within the Mano River were also a matter of grave concern for his Government, which had suffered four different attacks on its territory form neighbouring Guinea. 

He said that, as a result, an ECOWAS Committee set up to investigate the incursions, had recommended that a military observer mission be deployed at the borders of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, and that dialogue ensue among the heads of States of those countries.  His country called upon the United Nations to urgently facilitate the implementation of those recommendations by assisting ECOWAS with its logistical requirements.  Furthermore, his country unequivocally condemned all dissident activities within the Mano River Union, including the recent attacks in Guinea.

He expressed additional concerns of his Government, including the view that the Panel had exceeded its mandate by proposing punitive measures, rather than a strengthening of measures already imposed by the Council.  The extreme prejudice of the Panel was demonstrated in its recommendation to impose a travel ban on Liberian officials and diplomats.  There was no basis in the United Nations Charter to deny Liberia the opportunity to conduct its external relations as a sovereign Member of the United Nations.  In addition, the proposed ban on the export of Liberian timber was intended to deny the Government substantial revenue that funded social programmes in the areas of education, health, and social welfare. 

Moreover, he said, the Panel’s claim that timber revenue was used to purchase arms for the RUF was a contradiction of its submission that the revenue from diamond sales “is more than enough to sustain its military activities”.  In light of the very serious charges made against Liberia and the concrete decisions taken by his Government to address the concerns of the international community, the Government requested the cooperation and support of the Security Council.  That approach, coupled with regional initiatives of ECOWAS, would yield far greater positive results than the imposition of punitive measures.

The meeting suspended at 1:10 p.m.

When the meeting resumed at 3:15 p.m., PIERRE SCHORI (Sweden) spoke on behalf of the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Iceland.  He said the Union was particularly concerned by the role played by the Liberian leadership in fuelling the violence in Sierra Leone.  The Union demanded that Liberia and all other parties involved in the violation of the sanctions cease such activities immediately. 

He noted the Union’s support for early action to curb the flow of conflict diamonds from the region.  It would support coordinated action to establish national certification schemes in the region, as well as measures to strengthen control in countries identified as transit States for conflict diamonds. 

He said the Union shared the Panel’s strong concern that sanctions on diamonds and weapons were being broken with impunity.  It, therefore, believed that effective pressure to persuade President Taylor and his associates to comply with the sanctions, and put an end to their support for rebel movement in neighbouring countries, should be a key element in the response to the West African crisis.  Such measures should be targeted on the Liberian leadership, while limiting the impact on the Liberian people, he stressed.

MICHEL DUVAL (Canada) said that in light of the unambiguous conclusions drawn in the report, his delegation supported the immediate imposition of an embargo on diamond exports from Liberia, given that country’s clear role as a trans-shipment point for gems mined illegally in Sierra Leone.  His delegation also supported the development, with the Council’s support, of stringent control measures in neighbouring countries, particularly the Gambia and Burkina Faso.  Should those collaborative efforts prove inadequate, the Council ought not hesitate to extend the embargo to other States, if and as needed.

He encouraged members to carefully examine the numerous other recommendations in the report with a view to reaching an agreement on a comprehensive package of measures that were both effective and discriminating.  The Council should engage the relevant bodies in the development both of those measures and of criteria for measuring compliance by the States targeted in the report.  Any such measures should be tied to explicit criteria, as the Council must avoid measures that were open-ended or ambiguous. 

He urged the Council to consider putting in place a standing, integrated monitoring arrangement -– not least to improve efficiency and reduce overlap in the Council’s effort to detect violations of its measures.  Instead of having three separate panels looking at similar issues in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, why not have a single monitoring office operating with reference to those and other sanctions regimes? he asked.

JENO C.A. STAEHELIN, Permanent Observer for Switzerland, said his Government had felt it necessary to speak today, because it had been mentioned in the report.  His Government, too, was concerned by the situation in Sierra Leone and by the resultant instability in the region.  It supported the efforts of the United Nations and ECOWAS in finding a rapid and durable solution to the problem.  He welcomed the different measures taken by the Council to end the conflict and promote peace and stability in the region.  He considered sanctions aimed at eliminating the economic base that helped perpetuate the conflict particularly important.

To make the sanctions truly effective, it was necessary to take into account the risk of their being circumvented, he continued.  That problem came up especially with regard to the illegal importation of rough diamonds from Sierra Leone.  He noted that his Government had not only fully applied all the Council’s recommendations on the subject; it had taken additional steps.  It regretted that the report had mentioned, in a partial and incomplete way, Switzerland’s measures.  He noted that he had addressed a letter to the President of the Council setting out those measures.  Switzerland attached great importance to the establishment of peace and security in Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries, which was essential for assuring peace in the entire region.

CHEICK AHMED TIDIANE CAMARA (Guinea) said that for more than 10 years the subregion had been gripped by a crisis that had jeopardized its peace and security.  The involvement and outright support of the Liberian Government for different rebel movements in the subregion no longer needed to be proved.  The authorities in Monrovia were pursuing a policy of terrorism.  The allegations of Liberia's delegation were unfounded and could in no way hide the bellicose nature of the Liberian authorities. 

He said his country was a victim of continuing rebel attacks led from Monrovia and supported by the RUF.  The attacks had caused a great loss of life, physical damage and a humanitarian disaster.  It was essential to end the terrorist activities of the Monrovian authorities and break the link between Sierra Leone diamonds and the supply of arms to the rebel movements.  His delegation hoped that the targeted measures envisaged would send a strong signal to the Liberian President to end his support for rebel and terrorist movements.

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said that, from the very beginning, his country’s position regarding the conflict in Sierra Leone had been set forth in detail. It was inappropriate to argue the case, once again, and appear on the defensive.  Wisdom had inclined him merely to take note of the Panel’s report.  One of the objectives of the Council, when it assigned an investigative mission to the Expert Panel, had been to encourage countries to attest to their good faith and total willingness to cooperate with the United Nations.  That was how his Government had understood the message and translated it into various steps indicating its willingness to work with the Organization in a transparent and honest manner.

He said his Government had set up an inter-ministerial committee to follow up sanctions against the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).  The Committee also had the authority to follow up and implement Security Council resolutions.  His Government was also deferring all transactions regarding precious stones and metals emanating from conflict areas throughout the whole of its territory.  His country had provided total freedom to the United Nations’ investigators, who were allowed to visit, and even photograph, military warehouses and question whomever they wished.  The most important action, however, had been the decision to establish, for three years, an arms import monitoring mechanism, under the supervision of the United Nations. 

The Government had just adopted the decree establishing that mechanism and had defined its critical nature, he said.  It had proposed to the Secretary-General that the United Nations and Burkina Faso get together to determine the political and technical structure of the mechanism, which would monitor any importation of weapons by the Government in strict conformity with the ECOWAS moratorium on the import, export and manufacture of light weapons.  It would also conform to rules governing public contracts, as well as procedures for the issuance of final destination certificates.  The United Nations would be informed about the acquisition of weapons by Burkina Faso.  Any movement of those weapons would be the subject of a prior communication with the United Nations Secretariat. 

He hoped that measure would allay, once and for all, any suspicion about his Government, he said.  Very few States would subject themselves to such action, which was tantamount to an infringement of sovereignty.  It had done so, however, to prove its staunch resolve to guarantee peace and security in Africa and worldwide.  In that light, it was truly difficult to understand the Panel’s recommendation that new investigations be launched into weapons imports into Burkina Faso during the past five years.  That was well before the Council first took up the question of Sierra Leone; it adopted its first resolution on the situation in 1997.  The best reward for his Government’s total commitment to cooperation would be to forget the past and give the present and future a chance.

BABOUCARR-BLAISE ISMAILA JAGNE (Gambia) said he welcomed the idea of bringing the thorny issue out in the open, which would give his country an opportunity to clear its name.  His Government was flabbergasted by the malicious allegations made in the report.  His country had always enjoyed good relations with Sierra Leone, he stressed. 

He said he would have thought that the Panel would have visited his country and discussed the issues with the relevant authorities.  What was the motive behind the baseless allegations? he asked.  The representative of Ukraine had been right to say that all relevant information should be brought to the concerned government’s attention.  His country had never denied that some individuals had long been involved in the issue.  That was common knowledge.  There should, however, be a distinction between the actions of individuals and those of a government. 

He insisted that the Panel visit the Gambia and present any evidence it had that his Government illegally exported diamonds.  The allegations were simply ludicrous.  Through the actions of individuals, it was possible that diamonds were transiting through the country, but it was false to say that the Government in any way condoned it.  The Gambia would continue to do all it could to help resolve the crisis in Sierra Leone.  He cited the number of Sierra Leonean refugees in his country as a testament to its long-standing friendship with Sierra Leone.  The Council should act swiftly on the Panel’s report, but fairly, he stressed.

CLAUDE STANISLAS BOUAH-KAMON (Côte d’Ivoire) said the Panel’s report had provided information on violations perpetuating the links between diamond trading and the supply of arms to the West African subregion and elsewhere.  His country had been named among those alleged to have had a special relationship with the parties in conflict in Sierra Leone.  It was charged with serving as a venue for commercial diamond transactions and providing an air connection to the benefit of actors in the war.  It had been suggested that Côte d’Ivoire had played an important role in the various trades that had fuelled the war efforts of the parties in conflict in Sierra Leone.

He said his country had approved the Council’s initiative to entrust an expert panel with the mission of shedding light on the situation.  At the time of the preparation of its report, his country, however, had been unable to provide the Panel with import and export data.  It had since done so.  The delay was justifiable, owing to the unstable political situation prevailing in Côte d’Ivoire since December 1999.  It had had four governments, and the changes in ministries had led to that delay.  He wished to reaffirm his Government’s commitment to resolutely undertake measures to comply with United Nations and Security Council sanctions.

The second part of the Panel’s report had dealt with private brokers and arms merchants, which it cited as the principal suppliers to the RUF, either directly or indirectly through sympathetic governments.  In the following paragraph, it was pointed out that Côte d’Ivoire, under previous administrations, had been sympathetic to the Liberian Government and, indirectly, to the RUF. Indeed, his country had striven to maintain excellent relations with all of its immediate neighbours.  With respect to Liberia, both countries embodied the same peoples, divided artificially through borders inherited during colonialism.

Continuing, he said that such ethnic affinity had led to the harmonious integration of Liberian refugees in his country, and the last President had spared no sacrifice in helping to restore peace to Liberia.  Presently, his country felt bound to accede to any instrument that would enforce sanctions without jeopardizing its sovereignty.  Its Government had never permitted, nor would it ever permit, anyone to make use of its territory to undermine the political integrity of any country in Africa or elsewhere.

ANDRE ADAM (Belgium) said he fully subscribed to the statement made by the representative of Sweden on behalf of the European Union.  He reiterated his country’s determination to help solve the problem created by “conflict diamonds” and expressed its full agreement with the conclusions of the Panel of Experts.

Regarding the need to establish a global certification scheme for rough diamonds based on the system adopted in Sierra Leone, he said he wished to refer to the prominent role played by Belgium, together with other countries involved in the diamond trade, in the so-called Kimberley Process.  One of its objectives had been to set up such a system.  His country’s vast experience in the diamonds field had enabled it to contribute decisively to the establishment of the certification system in Sierra Leone.  It was ready to place that experience at the disposal of the international community, so that the system was expanded. 

The Panel had pointed out the urgent task of establishing a harmonized system of public documentation and statistics concerning diamond imports and exports.  Belgium supported that concept, as well as transparency in the diamond field.  The success of any global certification scheme depended on transparency.  His country published monthly and annually, detailed and complete statistics on the imports and exports of all diamonds.  An ongoing focal point should be created to monitor adherence to sanctions, conscious of the risk of duplication caused by the simultaneous existence of three expert groups.

OUSMANE MOUTARI (Niger) said it was with a view to establishing peace and stability in West Africa and the entire continent that his country had worked for so long with its ECOWAS partners.  That was why, as soon as it had become aware of certain aspects of the report, his Government had instigated preliminary investigations and had communicated information to the Secretariat regarding a certain aircraft belonging to Aeroleasing, Inc. and its landing in Niamey, having come from Monrovia.  However, it had not yet been possible to identify the merchandise that the aircraft had been transporting, because of archival problems.  The relevant authorities would continue to investigate, in order to obtain the information that had been requested.

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For information media. Not an official record.