LIBERIAN CONFLICT COULD ENGULF ALL WEST AFRICA IN CRISIS, ANNAN WARNS
From: UN New York, Feb 28 2003 3:00PM
© UN News Centre at http://www.un.org/news
Liberia is at a critical crossroads
between peace and conflict, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
says in a
today, warning that continued support for Liberian rebels could engulf
the whole of West Africa in an economic and humanitarian crisis.
"With elections approaching, Liberia finds itself at a critical
crossroads," the Secretary-General says in a report to the Security
Council, noting that the Liberians United for Reconciliation and
Democracy (LURD) rebel group is determined to seize power by
unconstitutional means. "It (Liberia) could either turn a new page
towards sustainable peace and progress under enhanced democratic
governance or continue to fester in conflict and poverty, with
deleterious effects for its people and the subregion."
Mr. Annan says it is clear that LURD enjoys some external military
support in the conflict with President Charles Taylor's government, and
neither side is likely to win.
"The international community should discourage such support, whose only
achievement, so far, has been the massive displacement of innocent
civilians, including women, children and the elderly, the deaths of
thousands of persons and the wanton destruction of infrastructure and
personal property," he warns. "If decisive action is not taken to put an
end to this tragedy, a generalized humanitarian and economic crisis
could engulf the entire West African region."
Noting that the first step is to end the fighting, Mr. Annan says
dialogue remains the only means to create an enabling environment for
peaceful elections and a brighter post-electoral future for the country,
whose people have suffered far too long. "In this regard, I commend the
ongoing local and regional initiatives that have made it possible for
the Government and LURD to start dialogue," he adds.
The Secretary-General also urges Council members to support the
International Contact Group on Liberia, which met at UN Headquarters in
New York today, calling it the best forum for the international
community to find the quickest possible comprehensive solution to the