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Diplomats Say Taylor Will Leave Liberia  Same Day US Peacekeepers Arrive - 2003-07-17


A high level U.N. envoy to Liberia, veteran U.S. diplomat Jacques Klein, says Liberian President Charles Taylor will go into exile the day that U.S. peacekeepers arrive. But U.S. officials continue to weigh whether to send troops to the troubled West African nation.

Mr. Klein says Secretary-General Kofi Annan gave him the information concerning the departure of Mr. Taylor, who is under indictment for war crimes.

"As I understand it, he will leave the day the Americans arrive. That is the scenario," he said. "In other words, they arrive, he leaves, and hopefully goes to Nigeria and will play a less visible role, if I can be diplomatic."

Mr. Klein, the secretary-general's new special representative to Liberia, says officials agreed to the plan before his appointment last week.

President Bush and Mr. Annan met on Monday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Liberia. A U.S. military team is in the country to assess the situation and U.S. officials are discussing whether to deploy a limited number of troops.

Mr. Klein says the U.S. decision is dependent on the deployment of regional forces from ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States. ECOWAS was expected to send about 15 hundred troops by the end of July. But that deployment has been delayed, possibly until next month. Mr. Klein says that delay exacerbates the crisis.

"ECOWAS not moving means no American decision, means no American commitment, which means I can not send my assessment team there, which means I can not deploy [a] U.N. peacekeeping mission, which we desperately need," he said.

Mr. Klein says that ECOWAS is working with the U.S. military team to determine the needs of the regional forces, potentially ranging from generators to air lifts, and field hospitals to water. But the new U.N. envoy warns that a lack of security is continuing to hinder the return of aid groups to help the suffering Liberian civilians.

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