Greenpeace activists uncovered a shipment of conflict timber in the Italian port of Ravenna coming from a company heavily linked with illicit arms trade to Liberia. The activists branded the logs by painting them with slogan: Logs of War. The timber comes from the Liberia company Maryland Wood Processing Industries (MWPI), whose President has been linked to the illegal trade of weapons in an expert panel report of the UN Security Council.

Today's expos‚ comes at the same time as the British-based NGO Global Witness released its damning report showing new evidence of the continuing links between the logging industry and illicit arms trade to Liberia. The report reveals that the President and chief shareholder of MWPI, Abbas Fawaz, has helped oversee the importation of weaponry into Liberia through Harper Port, which is under the management of MWPI. In 2002, Fawas brought weapons that were destined for use by Liberian-backed rebels in Cote d'Ivoire. He is a close associate of President Charles Taylor.

In April 2002 Greenpeace confronted the Italian Timber Importer Federation about the presence of conflict timber on the Italian market, from companies such as MWPI. After several meetings, the Federation members agreed to stop the import of timber from companies linked with the illicit arms trade and illegal logging operations. Despite this promise a number of Italian importers continue to import Liberia logs, as shown by this shipment.

The Italian timber industry has failed to take into account the UN Security Council's evidence showing of the role of the Liberian logging industry in fuelling regional conflict in West Africa said Sergio Baffoni, Greenpeace ancient forests campaigner. It's time for Italian importers to live up to their words and immediately stop buying conflict timber from countries like Liberia.

So far, the United Nations Security Council has failed to impose sanctions on the Liberian timber industry despite clear evidence of its role in the illegal arms trafficking business. A new discussion on UN sanctions on Liberia is scheduled on May 7th in New York.

The Italian government said it would be in the front line against terrorism and international insecurity, but at the same time Italy is still importing timber which is fuelling the civil war in West Africa and the illegal arms trade, continued Baffoni. Companies like MWPI illustrate the link between war, conflicts on natural resources and environmental destruction. Greenpeace calls upon the Italian government to ban all import of timber coming from Liberia until it can be shown that the timber industry no longer fuels regional conflict.

Italy will soon lead the European political process to control illegal logging and trade, through the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance & Trade (FLEGT) agreement. Greenpeace will be calling on all European governments to end their role in the trade of illegal timber coming from ancient forest destruction or linked to armed conflicts.

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