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Posted: 6/28/2003 4:50:26 PM EDT
[size=4]Annan Appeals for Peace Force in Liberia[/size=4] MONROVIA, Liberia - U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Saturday called for urgent deployment of an international force for Liberia, warning of a "humanitarian tragedy" in a war-ruined capital where fighting this week killed hundreds of trapped civilians. West Africa promised a peace force of at least 5,000 for Liberia if warring sides halt fighting, and France suggested Saturday it was open to contributing troops — stepping in where the United States, Liberia's colonial-era founder, so far has declined to tread. After a four-day battle between government and rebel forces for the Liberian capital, Annan urged the Security Council on Saturday to authorize sending a multinational force to Liberia to enforce a cease-fire that fell apart soon after it was signed June 17. "There are reports that several hundred innocent civilians have been killed in fighting in and around Monrovia and of wanton destruction of property and widespread looting," Annan said in a letter to the council. He called for the deployment to Liberia of a force "to prevent a major humanitarian tragedy and to stabilize the situation in that country." Liberia's capital counted its dead from this week's siege, the rebels' fiercest assault yet on Monrovia, a city of 1 million crowded with hundreds of thousands of refugees. Rebels pulled out of the city Friday after a four-day siege by artillery and rockets, and after fighting that left an estimated 500 civilians dead. An international peace force for Liberia was called for in a June 17 cease-fire accord. The cease-fire collapsed last week, after Liberian warlord-turned-president Charles Taylor repudiated his past pledges he would yield power in the interest of peace. The rebels responded with the assault. Monrovia awoke to calm Saturday for the first time in five days. Thousands of Liberians who had taken shelter around the city's U.S. Embassy, hoping for protection through proximity to the American Marines there, streamed home Saturday — only to find homes looted by government soldiers and others. "I went home this morning only to see that everything is gone," said one resident, 37-year-old Martin Weah. Rebels had overrun western neighborhoods of the city as far as the port, heavily contested both for its well-stocked food warehouses and for its strategic value. Liberian forces challenged rebels' claim that the insurgents had retreated under a unilateral cease-fire, saying rebels had left the city only because of an intense push by Taylor's forces. "If you see their bodies on the road, you will tell whether they withdrew or were forced back," said Gen. Roland Duo, chief of staff of Liberia's navy. In Ghana, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and Ghana President John Kufuor, current head of the West African leaders' bloc, urged both sides in Liberia toward a real cease-fire. When that happened, Kufuor said, West Africa would lead an at least 5,000-member peace force to Liberia. West African authorities spoke Saturday of the force deploying fairly quickly, with the aim of serving as a buffer between rebels and government. Kufuor said de Villepin had offered both French troops and logistical support for such a force. De Villepin did not confirm such an offer, but indicated French receptiveness. He cited Congo and the former French colony of Ivory Coast, where French troops have taken a lead role in trying to enforce cease-fires. "It will not be difficult for us to do the same for any disposition force in Liberia," the French foreign minister said at Ghana's international airport in Accra, before leaving Saturday. "But the first thing that must be done is a cease-fire." [red]European and U.N. leaders have urged the United States to take a lead role in such a peace force[/red], citing the effectiveness of Britain's and France's military deployments in their former colonies of Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. The United States has shown no inclination to commit a similar force for Liberia, a key West African Cold War ally of the United States that still sees itself as having special ties through its founding by freed American slaves in the 19th century. De Villepin, without mentioning President Bush, criticized the American leader when asked about Bush's call for Taylor to step down in the interest of peace. "In such conflict resolution, outside dictatorship does not help anybody," the French foreign minister said. "Rather, neighboring countries should be encouraged to take charge while we lend our support, and not the other way around." Taylor, trained by Libya as a guerrilla in the days when Liberia was the United States' Cold War base in West Africa, launched Liberia into conflict at the head of a tiny invasion force in 1989. The seven-year civil war that followed killed an estimated 200,000 Liberians, and left the country in lasting ruin. Taylor emerged from the war as the strongest fighter, and won presidential elections the following year. During the civil war, Taylor's fighters clashed frequently with a Nigerian-led peace force sent by fellow West African states to try to enforce peace deals. Taylor on Friday expressed support for a new international force in the current three-year rebellion. The Liberian leader also joined his people in urging the United States to get involved. The United Nations has Taylor under sanctions for alleged gun- and diamond-running with West Africa's rebel movements. A U.N.-backed war crimes court in neighboring Sierra Leone announced Taylor's indictment June 4 for his backing of Sierra Leone's vicious rebels in their 10-year terror campaign in that country. [url]http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/20030629/ap_on_re_af/liberia&cid=515&ncid=716[/url]
Link Posted: 6/28/2003 4:52:52 PM EDT
Send in Bruce Willis and his gang of seals.
Link Posted: 6/28/2003 4:54:29 PM EDT
You can always count on them to be there when they need us.
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