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Annan Urges US to Lead Liberia  Peacekeeping Force - 2003-06-30

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, meeting with U.N. officials in Geneva, has called for the United States to lead a multinational force to restore law and order in Liberia.

In a letter Saturday to the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Annan asked the Council to take urgent action to authorize the deployment to Liberia of a highly trained and well-equipped multinational force, under the lead of a member state.

Mr. Annan made it clear that the country he has in mind for this leadership role is the United States. In his comments to reporters, the U.N. chief noted that Britain and France have recently sent forces to trouble spots in Africa.

"Just as we have seen in recent past, the United Kingdom working with the West African and U.N. peacekeeping operations to calm the situation in Sierra Leone, the French taking the leadership of the multinational force in the Congo and also helping in Cote d'Ivoire," he said. "There are lots of expectations that the United States may be prepared to lead this force. Of course, that is a sovereign decision for them to take. But all eyes are on them."

In his letter to the Security Council, Mr. Annan said the consequences of allowing the situation to spiral out of control were too terrible to contemplate, not only for Liberia, but also for the countries of the sub-region, particularly neighboring Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire.

In his remarks Monday, he again stressed the humanitarian purpose of action by a multinational force.

"I think the resources and the capabilities exist," the secretary-general said. "What we need now is the political will to act, act in face of this gross violation of human rights, serious and tragic humanitarian situation with innocent civilians caught in the middle."

A ceasefire agreement between the rebels and the government of President Charles Taylor was signed in Ghana on June 17, but failed to halt the fighting.

A new rebel offensive last week was narrowly beaten back by government forces, leaving hundreds dead.

Britain and France earlier voiced their support for sending an international force to Liberia, which was founded in 1822 as a colony for freed American slaves.