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Vol 45 No 3

Published 4th February 2004


Liberia

Silencing the guns

After the fund-raising conference in New York, the focus shifts to disarmament and political reconciliation

The United Nations and the United States have a mutual interest in trumpeting the prospects for peace in Liberia. With 15,000 troops - the biggest peacekeeping force in the world - sent to stabilise a country of 3.3 million people who are desperately tired of war and with half a billion dollars of aid in prospect, the joint US-UN mission offers Liberia the best chance of peace since the the civil war started in 1990. It resuscitates the USA's multilateral pretensions after last year's debacle over Iraq; equally, it boosts the UN's credentials to run mammoth peacekeeping operations. Progress in Liberia will help both sides' diplomacy. US Secretary of State Colin Powell and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan were due to jointly host a Liberia fund-raising conference in New York on 6 February and expected to talk up the hopes of a much needed UN success in peacekeeping and reconstruction. Already, they've have had some success in drawing in more aid funds from the European Union and Japan. Although the diplomatic weight of Washington behind the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is a fraction of that in Iraq, some UN officials believe the Liberia story will have a happier ending. President George Bush's government is effectively underwriting UNMIL, partly in response to local and international criticism of its foreign policy. Successful peace-making in war-torn Liberia will play well in this year's US elections and offer Washington bargaining chips in other negotiations across the UN. The appointment of Jaques Paul Klein, a former advisor to the US military command in Europe, as the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor brought in diplomatic and financial support from Washington.

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