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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Tuesday 3 May 2005

LIBERIA: UN chief Jacques Klein departs suddenly, saying much still to be done

MONROVIA, 29 Apr 2005 (IRIN) - The head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Jacques Paul Klein, announced his immediate departure from Liberia on Friday, saying he regretted leaving before the job was done.

"I have regret in leaving Liberia at this time ...so much still needs to be done," said Klein at a special farewell ceremony in the capital Monrovia that marked the end of his time as the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to Liberia.

No reason was given for Klein's sudden departure.

"We have a long way to go. UNMIL will still be here in 2006 to continue to provide a safe secure environment. The UN agencies will stay here for ten years or more to continue to assist Liberians rebuild their lives," Klein said.

Klein's deputy, Abou Moussa, will take the reins until a replacement is found.

As for Klein, who is leaving Liberia this weekend, he is going to take a teaching post at the prestigious Princeton University in New Jersey, US.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia was launched, with Klein at the helm, on 19 September 2003 after former warlord and president Charles Taylor took exile in Nigeria, clearing the way for a peace deal between the warring sides.

Prior to working in Liberia, Klein headed a UN mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Under Klein the UN has disarmed and demobilised 101,495 fighters, collecting 28,314 weapons and 33,604 heavy munitions. The 15,000-strong peacekeeping force meanwhile has assumed responsibility for national security.

The straight-talking cigar-smoking former US general has been somewhat of a controversial figure in the country, and many UN staff in Liberia accuse him of steam-rollering deadlines for his own glorification.

In December 2003, Klein personally pressed for an early launch to a programme for the disarmament of former rebel fighters, but at the last minute had to put back the start date for one month until more peacekeepers arrived on the ground to ensure operations.

The confusion led to two days of rioting in the capital Monrovia, as fighters descended on the city demanding money in exchange for their arms.

Nine people died in the riots, though UN workers say the death toll could have been considerably higher.

[ENDS]

 

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