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Liberians Continue to Flee into Guinea, UN Refugee Agency Says


The U.N. refugee agency has said Liberians continue to flee to neighboring Guinea to escape fighting in their country. The agency also said it is concerned about displaced people inside Liberia where the conflict makes access extremely difficult.

The U.N. refugee agency has said fierce fighting around the Liberian town of Gbarnga and sporadic attacks near the capital, Monrovia, have prompted large numbers of people to flee in all directions.

UNHCR spokeswoman Delfin Marie said the latest wave of refugees fled into Guinea in the past four-days, when about 2,000 people crossed the border into the Nzerekore area. She said UNHCR teams report several thousand additional refugees may be stuck in tiny villages dotting the border.

Ms. Marie said the UNHCR needs to find these people and bring them to camps to receive humanitarian assistance.

"The emergency really is to take them away from the border, which is, as usual in cases of conflict, a dangerous or potentially dangerous area. That is why we are going along the border and trying to identify where the people are and take them in trucks to the camps," she said.

The UNHCR said refugees fleeing to Guinea come from Liberia's Lofa County, torn by civil strife since 1999, and from Bong County where fighting intensified last week between rebels and troops loyal to President Charles Taylor.

U.N. officials said about 30,000 Liberian refugees have recently sought shelter in Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria.

But it said that number is small compared to the number of people internally displaced in Liberia. Ms. Marie said the UNHCR is especially concerned about the internally displaced because fighting makes access to them nearly impossible.

"There is no real possibility of organizing sustainable assistance for them because of security and because these populations keep on moving inside Liberia. So it is really difficult to organize camps and regular assistance to these camps," she said.

The rebels accuse Mr. Taylor of destabilizing West Africa.

The United Nations has placed sanctions, including an arms embargo, on Liberia. Mr. Taylor said the sanctions are hampering his government's fight against the rebels.

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