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UN to Reduce Number of Peacekeepers in Liberia


A United Nations plan to reduce the number of peacekeepers in war-scarred Liberia has some Liberians concerned about the security of the country. But others are welcoming the plan for the gradual withdrawal of peacekeepers, which would bring the total number of U.N. troops down from more than 14,000 to about 9,000 in the next three years. Kari Barber has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar with additional reporting by Prince Collins in Monrovia.

U.N. armored tanks patrol the streets of Monrovia at night. Crime remains high in the nation following the end of its civil war in 2003.

The instability has some citizens, like social worker Brimah Kemoh, worried about U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's recommendation to begin withdrawing the peacekeeping force stationed in Liberia in the coming months.

"I think they should stay there and put the situation completely under control and make sure our security is prepared to deal with any unforeseen situation that may come up," he said.

Development worker Joseph Moseray says he does not think Liberia's security forces are ready to take responsibility from the U.N. forces (UNMIL).

"I do not want to say instability, but look at the vulnerability of the security and the society as a whole. Certain apparatus need to be put into place before UNMIL decides to leave," he said.

But university student John Molly says he thinks the country is ready to become less dependent on the United Nations.

"We should learn to stand on our own and UNMIL cannot stay here long," he said.

United Nations officials say they have trained thousands of Liberian officers and are putting into place a 500-person rapid response team to deal with emergencies.

The United Nations special representative to Liberia, Alan Doss, says the withdrawal will give Liberia a chance to grow.

"It is also a challenge to Liberia and its government because we want to see, progressively, to transfer responsibilities in a responsible, measured way to Liberia and Liberians," he explained.

Secretary General Ban recommended the withdrawal in a report to the Security Council last week, citing improvements in Liberia under the presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. However, he said it is too early to set a timetable for a full withdrawal. He said the security of the 2011 presidential elections would be taken into account in any decision that is made.

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