Top UN envoy calls for sufficient personnel and funds needed to resurrect

Seeking 15,000 United Nations peacekeepers and 900 police to bring war-shattered Liberia back from “hellish limbo,” the top UN envoy for the West African country appealed to the international committee today to commit the resources and personnel needed to end the “cycle of brutality, violence, corruption and instability.” “Give us the mandate and the tools and I assure you we will do what is just and what is right,” Jacques Paul Klein, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, told the Security Council in an open briefing, presenting Mr. Annan’s first report since the 15-member body last month authorized a multinational force for Liberia and declared its readiness to set up a follow-on UN stabilization force. “This effort will require dramatic, engaged and bold solutions,” Mr. Klein said, stressing that the force must be credible, well-trained and fully equipped and that adequate and secure financing was critical to resurrect a country “held hostage by armed drugged thugs” who destroyed the state and engulfed the region in chaos. “These efforts, if successful, will transform Liberia from a failed state of war with itself to a nation at peace,” he added, recalling the country’s last 12 years of living at the “whim of warlords, exploited by a criminal kleptocracy,” suffering “fearful economic waste” and the “untimely death of no small part of the population.” “Despite the multitude of challenges facing us, there is room for hope,” Mr. Klein declared. “Progress can be made but it will be expensive, arduous and at times frustrating.” Outlining the tasks ahead, Mr. Klein listed disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all ex-combatants, 79 per cent of whom are child soldiers “coerced [and] psychologically traumatized,” reform of the police, justice and prison system to instil confidence in the population, and humanitarian assistance. He said he planned to call an international donors conference, if the Council approves the mandate, to help a country where three-quarters of the population lives below the poverty line, 85 per cent are unemployed and many thousands do not have access to life’s basic necessities of shelter, water, food or even rudimentary medical care. In his report, Mr. Annan asked the Council 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. Video of Security Council meeting Listen to UN Radio report