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Liberia: Annan to close old UN office

Liberia: Annan to close old UN office in preparation for new mission

In light of the impending establishment of a new United Nations mission in Liberia, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has decided to close an office that was set up in the war-torn West African country six years ago but whose efforts to bring peace, reconciliation and respect for human rights were hamstrung by renewed fighting.

The UN Peace-building Support Office in Liberia (UNOL), established on 1 November 1997, "facilitated the promotion of national reconciliation and good governance and helped mobilize international support for the implementation of reconstruction and development programmes," Mr. Annan said in a letter to the Security Council released today.

"However, as the Security Council is aware, the peace-building efforts of UNOL were seriously hindered by the inability of the government and opposition party leaders to resolve differences over key issues of governance. Meanwhile the promotion of national reconciliation was undermined by systematic abuses of human rights, the exclusion and harassment of political opponents and the absence of security sector reform," he added.

Mr. Annan said UNOL's major functions would be transferred to the new mission that is set to be established shortly following the Council's authorization in August of a West African-led multinational force for Liberia with a follow-on UN stabilization force. He said the security situation in the country had improved since the deployment of the multinational force.

In his latest report on Liberia, Mr. Annan asked the Council earlier this week to authorize the deployment of a multidimensional peacekeeping operation, to be called the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), with a mandate to support the transitional government set up under a recent peace agreement between the factions, provide security, assist the return of refugees and help in demobilization and civil reform, among other things, leading to free and fair elections by October 2005.

Presenting the report, Mr. Annan's Special Representative for Liberia, Jacques Paul Klein asked the Council for 15,000 peacekeepers and 900 police to bring the war-shattered country back from "hellish limbo" and end the "cycle of brutality, violence, corruption and instability."

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