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Security Council Extends Mission In Sierra Leone


Security Council Extends Un Mission In Sierra Leone And Slows Troop Withdrawal

Extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) by another six months, the Security Council today endorsed plans to scale down the size of its peacekeeping force to a residual presence next year to give Government forces time to assert control over the country.

In a unanimous decision, the 15-member Council voted to continue UNAMSIL's work through 30 September at least, as requested by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his latest report.

The Council also resolved that a reduced UNAMSIL presence should stay on in Sierra Leone for at least six months starting 1 January, to help with the smooth transition of authority over security to the national government. Under a more gradual drawdown than previously planned, the Council estimates that the troop numbers should fall to 3,250 by 28 February 2005 from 5,000 at the end of this year.

The Council resolution follows Mr. Annan's report last week, which noted that the peace process remains fragile in the West African country, which is attempting to stabilize after a decade-long civil war.

Local elections are scheduled to be held in May and the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission is expected to produce its report soon.

In the resolution, the Council also urges the Government to strengthen its efforts to develop an effective police force, army, penal system and independent judiciary so that it can take over those responsibilities soon.

Daudi Mwakawago, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sierra Leone, told reporters at UN Headquarters today that there has been much progress in extending the effective authority of the central government in Sierra Leone to areas that were once considered no-go.

But he said the civil war had damaged so much of the country's infrastructure that even communicating with outlying areas remained extremely difficult.

Mr. Mwakawago also highlighted the increasing state control of revenue from the diamond industry, an important economic plank for the country. Last year Sierra Leone earned about $76 million in diamond revenues, up from $10 million in 2000.

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