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Security Council Mission Urges Support for Regional Force in Liberia


As the United States deliberates whether to send peacekeeping troops to Liberia, members of a United Nations Security Council mission just back from West Africa want the world body to support a regional force to stabilize the war-torn nation.

West Africa leaders meeting in Mozambique have announced that they plan to send the first of 1,000 regional troops to Liberia within the next two weeks.

ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, had earlier promised to contribute some 3,000 soldiers to help stabilize Liberia.

Now diplomats who participated in a mission to West Africa are calling on the Security Council to meet the needs of ECOWAS, which has appealed for troops and financial support from outside the region.

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, who led the Security Council mission, says ECOWAS has taken the lead in trying to end the Liberia crisis.

"Liberia is in a mess. It needs help," he said. "That help is on the horizon, visibly. Let's hope that it gets to the right point at the right time."

At the same time, the United States is under increasing international pressure to lead a peacekeeping force to Liberia, a nation established by former U.S. slaves. President Bush has not committed to sending troops but has called on Liberian President Charles Taylor, under indictment for war crimes, to fulfill his promise to step down. A U.S. military team is currently in Monrovia assessing the situation.

Mr. Greenstock says the Security Council mission once again called on factions involved in the Liberian conflict to respect a cease-fire agreement. He says it is time to address the needs of the suffering Liberian people, caught in the fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

"There are questions here of human rights, humanitarian law, humanitarian access, refugees and displaced persons, women and children, and of the recruitment of child soldiers, which we asked every party to address with urgency because the condition of Liberian civilians is one of the worst in any situation in the world today," he said.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for U.N. aid workers to return to Liberia. He has also appointed U.S. veteran diplomat Jacques Klein as his special envoy to the country.

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