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Liberian challenge "demands to be addressed"

Sierra Leone is building a special camp for fleeing Liberian combatants who have surrendered to its armed forces and United Nations peacekeepers, but the war in Liberia remains a big "external threat", according to Oluyemi Adeniji, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Speaking to reporters in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown on Friday, Adeniji said the Liberian challenge needed to be addressed in "a more pro-active manner than in the past".

The conflict could spill over, as evidenced by the recent influx of refugees fleeing the fighting, and it would be "difficult to determine genuine refugees from those who are troublemakers," he added.

Adeniji told reporters that Annan's latest report to the UN Security Council on Sierra Leone was "one of the most crucial" reports on international involvement in the country, according to statement from the UN Mission to Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL).

Annan's report recognised the challenges ahead, Adeniji said, adding that there was still "a big gap in ensuring that the security apparatus in the country is fully up to the task when UNAMSIL finally leaves."

In his report to the Security Council, released on 11 September, Annan proposed an extension of UNAMSIL's mandate by six months and a phased downsizing of its strength as the first step towards a gradual hand-over to the government of Sierra Leone.

He recommended a reduction of the current peacekeeping force from 17,000 to 5,000 by 2004.

Annan's report is scheduled to be discussed by the Security Council on Wednesday, 18 September.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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