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|Thursday, June 22, 2000, updated at 13:57(GMT+8)|
Detention of U.N. Soldiers in Sierra Leone CondemnedThe U.N. Security Council and the Economic Community of the West African Countries (ECOWAS) Wednesday voiced their condemnation of the rebel's "continued detention" of U.N. peacekeepers in Sierra Leone, and demanded the "immediate and unconditional release of all United Nations personnel detained or surrounded."
The condemnation was contained in a joint statement read to the press by the president of the Security Council, Jean-David Levitte, at the end of the day-long meeting with an ECOWAS delegation behind closed doors.
The ECOWAS delegation, which groups six West African foreign ministers representing the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council Committee, was headed by Malian Foreign Minister Modibo Sidibe.
"Council members and the ECOWAS Committee condemned the continued detention by the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) of United Nations peacekeepers of the Indian contingent" in Sierra Leone, and "the denial of freedom of movement to a large number of other United Nations personnel in the east of the country," the statement said.
"They demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all United Nations personnel detained or surrounded," and "called upon all the leaders in the region to ensure this is brought about speedily," the statement said.
The U.N. peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, known as UNAMSIL, currently has some 12,400 peacekeepers in the West African country.
In May, the Security Council increased UNAMSIL's authorized strength to 13,000 from 11,100.
A group of 21 Indian peacekeepers are still being held hostage by RUF, which has another contingent of more than 230 U.N. personnel surrounded in the eastern diamond town of Kailahun. "It was the common position of members of the Security Council and members of the ECOWAS delegation that the terms of the Lome Agreement have been flouted by the violation of the cease-fire, the attacks on UNAMSIL and the taking of hostages," the statement said.
"With the help of appropriate inquiries, those identified as responsible should be brought to justice," the statement said.
The statement was issued as Sierra Leone has asked the United Nations to set up a special court to try the RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, and other rebels for war crimes.
Sankoh, currently in the Government custody, was arrested on May 17 with members of the RUF after his fighters attacked U.N. peacekeepers, took hundreds hostage and marched on the capital of Freetown.
Their action breached the 1999 Lome Agreement which granted Sankoh and everyone else involved in the eight-year civil war an amnesty for past atrocities which included the deliberate severing of the limbs of civilians.
Meanwhile, "Members of the Security Council and the ECOWAS delegation expressed their concern about the humanitarian situation in Sierra Leone and called upon all parties to ensure safe and unhindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in need in Sierra Leone, in particular the refugees and displaced persons, women and children," the statement said.
"They called upon all States, international and other organizations to provide urgent and substantial humanitarian assistance to the people of Sierra Leone," the statement said.
"The members of the ECOWAS delegation look to the United Nations to continue providing the Government of Sierra Leone with the necessary assistance to restore law and order in the country and resuming security control throughout the territory," the statement said.
Speaking to the press, the Malian foreign minister said that he hoped that the United Nations would offer necessary resources to West African countries, which are ready to contribute their troops to the single UNAMSIL, for the restoration of peace and security in Sierra Leone.
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