UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council on Thursday authorized the use of force to cut off shipments of military supplies to rebel fighters in the war-ravaged West African nation of Liberia.
In a unanimous vote, the 15-member council approved an embargo under the same U.N. provisions used to punish Yugoslavia and Iraq. The purpose of the measure is to bolster efforts by a seven-nation West African force to defeat guerrilla leader Charles Taylor.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed or have starved to death in Liberia since Taylor invaded from Ivory Coast in December, 1989.
The resolution calls for all belligerents in Liberia to observe a truce and honor a peace process leading to disarmament and free elections for a new government.
The resolution is the first major U.N. effort to promote peacekeeping by a regional organization.
The U.N. system has been overtaxed by huge commitments to peacekeeping in Cambodia and the Balkans, and is seeking ways to shift some of the burden. Western governments fear being drawn into the Liberian conflict.
Only the West African peacekeeping force will be allowed to receive weapons and other military supplies under the council resolution, said Andre Erdos, the Hungarian ambassador and current president of the Security Council.
Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso have been accused of allowing arms and supplies to reach Taylor's fighters. Both countries say they no longer permit such shipments.
The West African force, numbering more than 12,000 men, is led by Nigeria. Other participants are Senegal, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Mali.
Allied troops hold Liberia's capital, Monrovia, but some of Taylor's estimated 7,000 guerrillas are entrenched in thick swamps around the city and his forces control most of the rest of the small country.