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Prosecutors Say Liberia's Taylor and Al Qaeda Working to Destabilize W. Africa


A U.N.-backed Sierra Leone war crimes court is asking the Security Council to help bring former Liberian President Charles Taylor to justice. Court officials accuse Mr. Taylor of working with the al Qaeda terrorist network on a plan to destabilize West Africa.

Officials of the U.N. appointed Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal say exiled former Liberian leader is deeply involved with al Qaeda, and believes West Africa can be turned into another Afghanistan.

Briefing a closed session of the Security Council Tuesday, chief court investigator Alan White said he had turned up evidence of Mr. Taylor's active involvement in several efforts to create turmoil in the region, including last January's attempt to assassinate Guinean President Lansana Conte.

"In November, we started learning about a plot that Charles Taylor and others in the region were trying to engage in destabilizing the region. In particular Guinea… We reported it in November, and we reported it in December in January it went down exactly the way our sources had reported it was going to occur, and that is on January 19th the assassination attempt on president Conte," he said.

Mr. White said those sources have advised him that another attempt on President Conte's life is being planned.

Through a spokesman, Mr. Taylor has denied any involvement in the assassination attempt.

Charles Taylor gave up Liberia's presidency and fled into exile in Nigeria in 2003. His departure was part of a hastily-brokered peace deal as rebels besieged Monrovia. As part of the deal, Mr. Taylor was granted asylum as long as he stayed out of Liberian affairs.

The Sierra Leone tribunal later indicted him on 17-counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for fomenting trouble in that country through an illegal trade in guns for diamonds.

The tribunal's chief prosecutor David Crane said there is clear evidence of Mr. Taylor's involvement with al Qaeda. "Al Qaeda has been in West Africa, it continues to be in West Africa, and Charles Taylor has been harboring members of al Qaeda to include those part of allegedly the takedown of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. He harbored them in 1998, we have activities as late as six April 2005," he said.

Mr. Crane said he was asking the Security Council's assistance in having Charles Taylor turned over to face trial. He admitted however, that the mechanics of such a handover are awkward because he has been granted asylum.

One possible solution is to have the Council pass a resolution praising Nigeria for its assistance in removing Mr. Taylor from Liberia, but point to his meddling in the region. Tribunal investigator White said the former Liberian leader remains a threat to regional stability. "It is clear that until Charles Taylor is brought to justice he will be an immediate clear and present danger to the threat and peace and security, not only to Liberia, but the entire West African region," he said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution urging Nigeria to cancel Mr. Taylor's asylum and turn him over for prosecution. And President Bush brought up the matter May 5th during a White House meeting with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

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