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Jackson to S. Leone Rebels: Disarm

May 22, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sierra Leone’s rebels should disarm voluntarily or be disarmed because continued violence in the West African nation poses a threat to regional stability, President Clinton’s special envoy to the region said Monday.

Returning to the United States to report to Clinton, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson in a telephone interview also called on Congress to provide financial support for efforts to bring peace to Sierra Leone.

``Holding up resources jeopardizes more lives,″ Jackson said. ``If U.S. troops are not going in, then the burden is on Congress to provide financial support for allies who are ready to help.″

Both the State Department and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called on Monday for the lifting of a U.S legislative hold on $226 million for U.N. peacekeeping activities, including those in Sierra Leone.

Jackson also criticized the reported killing of more U.N. peacekeepers in Sierra Leone by the rebels, saying it shows ``the contempt they have for democracy. They must be held accountable.″

After visiting Nigeria, Mali and Liberia over the weekend, Jackson said Nigeria was ready to lead a regional force which would try to halt fighting between the rebels and government forces in Sierra Leone.

``But these troops must have a peace enforcement mandate, not a peacekeeping mandate,″ Jackson said. ``Otherwise they will be targets″ for the rebels of the Sierra Leone Revolutionary United Front.

``The RUF must disarm and demobilize voluntarily or be disarmed and demobilized,″ Jackson said. ``They must not retain military power because that threatens democracy.″

He said the continued fighting in Sierra Leone could ``create a domino effect of instability in the region″ threatening Guinea, where 700,000 refugees have fled from Sierra Leone, and Liberia where some rebel leaders are based.

``There is a real obligation to secure democracy in Sierra Leone,″ he said.

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