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West African Leaders Urge US Mediation Role in Liberia - 2003-06-30


West African mediators have joined growing calls for U.S. military intervention to end a four-year civil war in Liberia.

West African mediators who are working to end the fighting in Liberia met Sunday in Nigeria with a U.N. Security Council delegation.

The mediators called for the United States to send troops to join a multi-national peacekeeping force that is being assembled to bring peace to Liberia.

The west African leaders said the U.S. government has a special responsibility toward Liberia because it was founded by freed American slaves. They noted that France and Britain recently intervened in their former colonies Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone to stop civil wars there.

France, Britain, and many Liberians have also urged the United States to lead a peacekeeping force in Liberia.

Last week, U.S. President George W. Bush called for Liberian President Charles Taylor to step down as part of a ceasefire agreement reached earlier this month with rebels to avoid further bloodshed. Mr. Bush did not mention a possible U.S. military role.

After Mr. Taylor's forces pushed back the latest rebel offensive onto the capital Monrovia last week, the Liberian president said he would welcome a U.S. intervention.

"This government will not hesitate to invite the United States troops here to try to help and bring some calm to Liberia. The United States has interests. This government is interested in working with Washington on resolving this problem in the continued promotion of democracy," Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Taylor acknowledged Mr. Bush's call for him to resign, but he said he must complete his elected mandate, before a transitional government can be established. Similar comments prompted the rebels to launch their latest offensive, before calling for a new ceasefire for what they said were humanitarian reasons.

Hundreds of people, including civilians, were killed in the offensive. The rebels control most of Liberia but not Monrovia.

Since Mr. Taylor's forces regained control of the capital, there has been widespread looting by pro-government militias. Mr. Taylor has warned they will face court martials if they do not stop.

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