New York

01 October 2003

Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the UN Mission in Liberia

As authorized by Security Council resolution 1509 (2003) of 19 September, today the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is taking over peacekeeping duties from the ECOWAS Mission established earlier in that country (ECOMIL). Some 3,500 West African troops who have been serving with ECOMIL vanguard force have been provisionally re-hatted as United Nations peacekeepers. They will be joined shortly by a battalion from Bangladesh, as UNMIL steadily increases its strength over the coming weeks.

The Secretary-General welcomes this very important development and salutes ECOWAS for its role in establishing the security climate that paved the way for the deployment of UNMIL.

He commends the Governments of Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo who have contributed to UNMIL, as well as the United States for its support to the regional force. The new United Nations mission will observe and monitor the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and investigate violations of the ceasefire; implement the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme; ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid; and protect United Nations staff members as well as civilians under imminent threat of violence.

In the meantime, personnel for the UNMIL Force Headquarters will start their training in Freetown. Pending completion of this exercise, the Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) will operate the Interim Force Headquarters, together with United Nations military personnel from other operations. The Secretary-General is confident that UNMIL will be able to contribute in a major way towards the resolution of conflict in Liberia, provided all parties concerned cooperate fully with the force and the international community provides the necessary resources.