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Liberian President Says He Will Resist Rebel Onslaught - 2003-06-25

Liberian President Charles Taylor has vowed to fight against a renewed rebel offensive on the capital, Monrovia. The opposing forces signed a cease-fire last week.

In a speech broadcast on Liberian radio, Mr. Taylor insisted he would not flee and that his forces will fight against "terror."

He spoke as heavy shelling echoed through the outskirts of Monrovia. The rebels, who are demanding his immediate resignation, stormed toward the city center for the second time in three weeks.

Tens of thousands of people rushed into Monrovia from the northern and western suburbs, fearing a repeat of fierce battles earlier this month.

Rebels who control most of Liberia have been unable to take the capital since starting their insurgency in 1999. But explosions rumbled across the capital late Tuesday as rebel fighters appeared to be encroaching on the city.

A cease-fire was signed last week at peace talks in Ghana, but Mr. Taylor has refused to step down before his term expires in January, as stipulated under the accord. On Friday, the president said he would serve out his term and may run again whenever elections are held.

Mr. Taylor has also said peace talks will fail unless an indictment against him for war crimes is lifted by a U.N.-backed court in Sierra Leone.

The special court has refused to lift the indictment and has received the backing of the United States and the European Union.

Mr. Taylor, a former rebel, is accused of fueling instability throughout west Africa by smuggling weapons, timber, and diamonds, charges he denies.