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Bush: US to Monitor Situation in Liberia 'Closely' - 2003-07-21

President Bush says he is keeping a close watch on the situation in war-torn Liberia.

The president says the Marines have been sent in to protect American interests in Liberia.

"We are concerned about our people in Liberia," he emphasized.

The Marines began arriving in Monrovia not long after a mortar shell hit the American embassy in the Liberian capital. They immediately took up positions in the compound, as fighting raged between troops loyal to Liberian President Charles Taylor and rebel forces.

The United States is under pressure to send a large contingent of peacekeepers to Liberia, which was founded by freed American slaves in the 1800's. President Bush says he wants to help but indicates he still has not made up his mind about the size of a possible deployment that might serve along with soldiers from members of ECOWAS - the Economic Community of West African states.

"We'll continue to monitor the situation very closely," said Mr. Bush. "We are working with the United Nations to affect policy necessary to get a ceasefire back in place. We are working with ECOWAS to determine when they will be willing to send in peacekeeper troops I said we would be willing to help."

Mr. Bush spoke during a joint news conference at his Texas ranch with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He was asked if the United States can just stand by and watch as the situation deteriorates in Liberia. The president made clear he wants the bloodshed to stop, but he also indicated he will not be rushed into a decision.