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Annan calls for Liberia operation to be extended

Annan calls for UN Liberia operation to be extended; drawdown but more police

Describing the security situation in Liberia as still “fragile,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for the UN mission in the country, which is recovering from a prolonged civil war, to be extended until March 2007 and for more police officers to be added as military personnel are withdrawn.

In his latest report to the Security Council, which deals specifically with recommendations for the drawdown of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Mr. Annan says that despite “considerable overall improvement” in security, a number of tasks critical to the sustainability of peace and stability remained to be accomplished.

“The continued presence of UNMIL remains indispensable during the consolidation phase. I therefore recommend the extension of the mandate of UNMIL for a period of one year, until 31 March 2007,” he says, noting that it is currently due to expire at the end of this month.

Mr. Annan also recommends reductions in UNMIL’s military component, including withdrawal of 250 troops by the end of this month, but he adds that “to help enhance police primacy, I recommend that the Mission police strength be increased by one formed police unit.”

He says that such an addition, would not only ensure that UNMIL “retains sufficient capacity to provide a reliable security umbrella for the new Government to fully establish its authority,” but would also give the Liberian Police Support Unit more time to gain the experience it needs to eventually take over from UNMIL.

Mr. Annan pays tribute to newly elected President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, noting that among other things she had “appointed an inclusive Government, taken bold initiatives to remove corruption, embraced the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme” and “adopted a reconstruction and development agenda.”

While avowing that Liberia’s Government “must actively take ownership” of the development agenda, the Secretary-General says that international partners “should be ready to extend the timely and necessary support” in the great challenges that lay ahead.

“In the coming months, the Government will need to forge an enhanced partnership with the United Nations family, the donor community, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union, for the consolidation of peace and for taking forward the reconstruction and development agenda of Liberia,” he concludes.

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