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UN envoy to Liberia speaks of cautious optimism while stressing need for

Alan Doss, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, made his remarks after briefing the Security Council on Mr. Annan’s latest report which acknowledges “tangible progress” in areas such as Government reform and the fight against corruption but also recommends that the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) be extended for another year until 30 September 2007.“Progress has been possible but at the same time we do underline that the situation remains fragile… so we will continue to emphasize the security dimension, the importance of dealing with potential problems in the security area, remaining alert and responsive and being willing to deal robustly if threats emerge either within the country or externally,” Mr. Doss told reporters in New York.“But also trying to encourage now the recovery and reconstruction process that must ultimately underpin all the national efforts to move forward and to move beyond the shadow of the conflict.”He said that UNMIL was now in a “consolidation phase” which he expected to last until the end of 2007, after which the mission would move into a gradual drawdown phase if the security situation permits, although he emphasized it was too early to predict too far ahead. In his report, Mr. Annan said one UNMIL infantry battalion would be withdrawn in November, but he also stressed the need to closely monitor the security situation.“The President’s been in office barely eight, nine months, so we have to be cautiously optimistic as we move forward, and as you know Liberia is in a troubled neighbourhood: the situation in Côte d’Ivoire still remains very uncertain; Guinea, of course, has its preoccupations; and next year there’ll be elections in Sierra Leone, of course.” “So altogether we think that we should ‘steady as she goes,’ so to speak, and keep moving in the same direction.”UNMIL was established in 2003 to support the implementation of a ceasefire and a peace process in Liberia and as of the start of this month had over 14,800 military and police personnel in the country. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected to lead an African nation, was inaugurated as Liberia’s President on 16 January. read more