U.S. Seeks Freezing of Liberian's Assets
By EDITH M. LEDERER
The Associated Press
Friday, March 5, 2004; 6:10 PM
UNITED NATIONS - The United States circulated a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Friday to freeze the assets of exiled Liberian leader and indicted war criminal Charles Taylor, and will seek a vote sometime next week.
Taylor fled into exile in Nigeria on Aug. 11 as rebels laid siege to the Liberian capital, Monrovia. He faces war crimes charges by a U.N.-backed tribunal for his role in a brutal insurgency in Liberia's neighbor Sierra Leone.
His departure from Liberia cleared the way for a power-sharing deal between his government and the rebels after a war that claimed more than 150,000 lives.
The draft resolution, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, aims to locate resources it says Taylor and his associates drained from their country, undermining "Liberia's transition to democracy."
It would require all countries to freeze funds, financial assets "and economic resources owned or controlled directly or indirectly" by Taylor, his wife and son, as well as others on a U.N. sanctions committee list to be circulated to the 191 U.N. member states.
In Monrovia on Friday, U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of State Pamela Bridgewater met with the interim government's chairman, Gyude Bryant, and said the United States would help Liberia trim its crippling foreign debt if the new power-sharing administration spends its revenue in a transparent way.
"Once we see that certain things are in place, our dialogue with international financial institutions will proceed so that we can move toward an element of debt forgiveness and reduction," Bridgewater said later.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity from New York, said experts would meet to discuss the draft U.N. resolution Tuesday and Washington wanted a vote sometime next week.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the proposed action was recommended by a panel of experts in a 2003 report to the Security Council Sanctions Committee.
"The draft that we presented today takes up that recommendation and recognizes that Taylor and his associates continue to pose a threat," he said.
Those on the list would be able to keep what their host countries determine to be essential for basic living expenses.
Liberia's new government is expected to arrange elections for late 2005 and cede power to a representative government in early 2006.
Also Friday, war crimes investigators searched Taylor's former residences for evidence to buttress the allegations that he helped the Sierra Leone rebels.
Escorted by U.N. peacekeeping staff carrying AK-47s, the investigators were seen moving through Whiteflower, the presidential residence where Taylor passed some of his last hours in Liberia before fleeing into exile in Nigeria.
Investigators were also searching Taylor's private home "for information to further support strong evidence that led to Taylor's indictment," the joint U.N.-Sierra Leone tribunal said in a statement from Freetown, Sierra Leone. It was not clear what exactly they were looking for.
© 2004 The Associated Press