- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003

Iraqi official expected

It looks like the Iraqi Governing Council will be sending Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari to deliver its address at the U.N. General Assembly debate.

The United Nations protocol office has not yet confirmed his attendance, nor has it scheduled an Iraqi speaker during the eight-day debate that starts Tuesday next week.

“We think it will be Mr. Zebari, yes,” said a long-serving member of Iraq’s U.N. delegation. “As long as no one objects.”



The U.S.-appointed Governing Council was endorsed two weeks ago by the Arab League, and appears to have the full support of the U.N. Security Council. Objections now are unlikely.

Taylor-made issue

How do you solve a problem like Charles Taylor?

The elected Liberian president entered exile a month ago, but the tenacious bush fighter has refused to leave his terrorized country in peace.

Mr. Taylor, who acted as his own treasury, stashed away as much as $1 billion from the shattered Liberian economy, say European Union and U.N. sources.

He is said to be demanding bribes from shipping companies, threatening former rivals and skimming profits from the rubber industry.

“Charles Taylor with a cell phone is a government in exile,” said Jacques Klein, the U.N. representative in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. “If he doesn’t live quietly, the Nigerian government is going to have to assess his continued presence.”

Under the terms of the exile, Mr. Taylor would leave Liberia for a life of apolitical tranquility in Nigeria.

“When he left, the money, surprisingly enough, also left,” Mr. Klein told reporters on Friday. “The new government has an empty treasury. What Liberia certainly needs is an audit covering the last three years.”

EU officials say the former president has maintained close telephone contact with successor Moses Blah and other officials.

One might have expected Mr. Taylor — Liberia’s first president to leave office alive since 1943 — to have kept a lower profile.

He has been indicted by a war-crimes tribunal for supporting Foday Sankoh and other rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone’s civil war. In theory, at least, he should be handed over to face a trial.

Mr. Klein, a retired U.S. Air Force major general who has run U.N. civil administrations in the Balkans, said no country is willing to arrest Mr. Taylor.

“My experience in Bosnia and Croatia was, until you punish the guilty you don’t absolve the innocent, and you don’t do reconciliation in any meaningful way,” Mr. Klein said. “His continued freedom implies that he may be able to return. You hope at some point justice is done.”

Founded by freed American slaves, Liberia is a symbolic obligation for Washington as well as a flash point of instability for West Africa. There are about 2,000 Americans with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Iwo Jima off the coast of Liberia.

Mr. Klein, unwilling to see the Mano River region of West Africa dissolve into more chaos, advocates a robust role for U.S. troops.

“The excellent work the British have done in Sierra Leone and the French in Cote d’Ivoire could all become undone if Liberia implodes and these gangs cross the border.”

U.S. refugee funding

The State Department announced last week an additional contribution of $28.3 million to the U.N. refugee agency, half of which is earmarked for the care and repatriation of displaced Afghans.

The remainder would be used for operations in Africa, including in Liberia, with emphasis on the permanent resettlement of refugees in neutral and accepting third countries.

The total U.S. contribution to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in fiscal 2003 is $297 million, the largest contribution by any country.

Betsy Pisik may be reached by e-mail at UNear@aol.com.

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