Nigerian leader: Nation no longer deserves sanctionsSeptember 24, 1998
Web posted at: 10:37 p.m. EDT (0237 GMT)
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Describing Nigeria as undergoing a "silent but peaceful revolution," its leader urged the international community Thursday to lift economic sanctions.
Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar cited progress in human rights and a movement toward democracy in making his plea.
"I stand before this august body as the leader of a country which is now fully engaged in a genuine and irreversible process of transition to democracy," he told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly.
He reiterated his pledge to return Nigeria to a democratically elected government next May, noting that a new electoral commission was inaugurated last month.
Abubakar came to power after the death of Gen. Sani Abacha in June. Abacha annulled presidential elections in 1993, and his five years in power were marked by rampant human rights abuses.
Since coming to power, Abubakar has released political prisoners and worked to improve relations with other nations.
Abubakar said because Nigeria has honored a pledge to restore fundamental human rights and freedoms, "We now call on the western countries to lift the sanctions which some of them have imposed on our country."
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has been governed by the military -- with the exception of 10 years of civilian rule. The county needs global support to improve the lives of its people, Abubakar said.
"A silent but peaceful revolution is taking place in Nigeria," he explained. "This is the time, therefore, for the international community to give the necessary encouragement and support for our endeavors."
There has been some movement on the lifting of sanctions. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier this week he was confident that all sanctions against Nigeria -- including those imposed by the European Union -- would be lifted soon, with the exception of the arms embargo.
Sanctions were imposed on Nigeria by the 15-nation EU, after the country's military regime hanged nine dissidents in 1995. The sanctions include an arms-sale ban, a sports boycott and blocking development aid. No restrictions were placed on Nigeria's vital oil exports.
The country's membership in the Commonwealth of former British colonies also was suspended in 1995, and the United States imposed military sanctions on Nigeria because of its human rights record.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who met with Abubakar on Thursday, praised Nigeria's "remarkable progress" in restoring its international standing.
"I think that General Abubakar and his team are systematically taking steps that will enable us to see Nigeria ... back in the international community," she said.
But when asked by reporters if it were time to lift sanctions, Albright said the United States would "see how the process moves forward."
Abubakar spoke to the General Assembly after the Security Council held a special ministerial-level meeting on Africa.
He urged Nigerians in "self-exile" to return home and participate in the future development of the country.
Also, Abubakar said at a breakfast with reporters before his speech that he would appoint a special adviser next month for the country's new oil administration.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the meeting by praising Nigeria, and said he hoped Abubakar will "continue on the path to good governance and the rule of law."
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