Liberia - Foreign policy

Lifting sanctions and reestablishing donor confidence is one of Taylor's immediate concerns. In the past, Taylor supported Sierra Leonean rebels—the RUF, and in violation of UN conventions is believed still to be involved in trafficking arms, and smuggling of "blood" diamonds. The UN panel of experts advising the Security Council recommended that sanctions—begun in May 2001—be continued at least till June 2003. Evidence supporting the recommendation was based in part on the discovery of more than 200 tons of arms and munitions imported to Liberia originating in former Yugoslavia via a complex route through Eastern Europe and West Africa. Arms shipments to Liberia and the subregion have been linked to Libya and the United Arab Emirates as well, and are tied to diamond trafficking. Human rights abuses against the people of Liberia also gave the panel cause to extend the sanctions, which ban the sale of arms to Liberia and the export of diamonds from Liberia, and effect a travel ban on government officials. France and China, principal importers of Liberian timber, have opposed a motion by other members to extend sanctions to the timber trade. Because of the government's lack of accountability, Liberia has been subjected to an audit of maritime and timber revenue, supervised by the British auditing firm, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.

War has also proven to be a significant factor in Taylor's subregional foreign policy. Despite its membership in the Mano River Union (MRU), Liberia has suffered strained relations with its neighbors. Relations with Sierra Leone improved somewhat after the British-imposed cessation of hostilities and the successful conduct of elections in May 2002 in Sierra Leone. However, Taylor has harbored Guinean dissidents, who have launched cross-border attacks on Guinea from Liberian soil. He also has accused the government of Guinea's president Lansana Conté of providing safe haven for the LURD. Although the UN's panel of experts on Liberia recently found evidence of Guinean support for LURD, rumors of close links between high-level officials in both governments have raised speculation that President Conté could be playing both sides.

In September 2002, donors formed an International Contact Group on Liberia composed of representatives of the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union, France, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Nations (UN), the United Kingdom (UK), and the United States. However, little progress has been achieved. U.S. ambassador John Blaney also has attempted to negotiate between government officials and representatives of the LURD without much success.

Taylor has looked to Asia to replace former friends in the West. Since 1997, Taiwan has built a new airport terminal at Roberts Field, rebuilt a major hospital in Monrovia, provided technical assistance in agriculture, and institutional capacity building in the government. In October 2002, Taylor sent a high-level delegation to Taiwan to accelerate aid payments. By contrast, the EU has channeled less money than anticipated to Liberia, and U.S. funding—restricted by the rules of the Brooke Amendment—is being disbursed through nongovernment organizations (NGOs) for humanitarian and peace-building activities.

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