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Security Council backs UN troops in Sierra Leone

Security Council backs new plan for UN troops in Sierra Leone - President

The members of the Security Council today agreed to "respond quickly" to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recent proposal for a modified, four-stage reduction in the military strength of the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone, the President of the 15-nation body said today.

Speaking to the press on a number of issues following the Council's closed-door consultations this morning, the current President, Ambassador Inocencio F. Arias of Spain, said the members had agreed they should respond quickly to the Secretary-General's recommendation to modify the current pace of the military drawdown - taking into account the evolving security situation and efforts to strengthen the capacity of the country's security sector - with a view to completing withdrawal of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) by December 2004.

He said the Council had recalled the three options Mr. Annan had proposed in his most recent report on UNAMSIL - an "accelerated withdrawal" which would see all troops leaving the country by June 2004; a "delayed withdrawal" a sector-by-sector, four-stage drawdown that would be completed by June 2005, and the "modified status quo" option the 15-nation body decided on today as the best way forward.

That plan, according to the report, would address concerns about a more speedy withdrawal "that neither the Sierra Leone police nor armed forces are expected to make such rapid progress as to have them assuming external and internal security responsibilities by mid-2004 without UNAMSIL support." The Secretary-General suggests that a delayed withdrawal would be necessary only in the event that either the internal security situation or the conflict in Sierra Leone required UNAMSIL's prolonged presence to protect the Government and the country's territorial integrity.

Ambassador Arias also said the Council called on all UN Member States to consider making new or increasing their contributions to the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The Freetown-based Court, created through an international agreement between the UN and Sierra Leone, is mandated to try those who bear "the greatest responsibility" for atrocities committed during the country's ten-year civil war.

On other matters, Ambassador Arias said he had also informed the Council of his meeting with the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). He said the DPRK's representative had reiterated that the political situation in that country was "deteriorating," and that the United States was committing hostile or unfriendly acts towards it, including naming the country as part of the "Axis of Evil," redeploying two US military divisions along the boarder between the North and the South, and increasing military assistance to the Republic of Korea. The DPRK representative recommended that negotiations restart between the US and the DPRK.

Responding to a series of questions, Ambassador Arias said that for the time being, the Council was taking no steps on the DPRK issue. "I'm not hiding anything," he said. "I have not been approached by any member of the Council to make a statement on this issue."

The Council President said members had also heard a report by Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock of the United Kingdom and Ambassador James Cunningham of the United States about the situation in Iraq and the steps being taken in order to speed up efforts to enable Iraqis to play a more active role in administering their country during the current period.

In response to a question, he said the Council had not been informed that the newly-inaugurated Iraqi Governing Council would be sending a delegation to the UN to assert its right as a legitimate governing body during the transition period.


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