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Mortars Strike Monrovia; Liberia Peacekeepers Could Begin Deployment Tuesday - 2003-07-28

The Liberian capital, Monrovia, continues to be pounded by mortars from both government and rebel positions. Meanwhile, west African leaders are in nearby Ghana to discuss plans for the deployment of a regional peacekeeping force, with Nigeria saying that the first troops could be on the ground by Tuesday.

As rebel and government forces continue to battle for control of Monrovia, west African leaders are meeting in Accra, Ghana to discuss plans for the deployment of a peacekeeping force. Nigerian leaders have said that the first two battalions of 1,300 men could be on the ground by Tuesday, but some details remain to be settled, such as who will pay for the peacekeeping force.

The United States has contributed $10 million but that would only pay for a few days upkeep of a peacekeeping force of any size. U.S. marines are heading into Liberian waters, but there has been no commitment from Washington to send them in for peacekeeping duties in Liberia.

Conditions in Monrovia are rapidly deteriorating for the many thousands who moved into the city in a bid to escape the fighting. Food supplies have all but run out and there is little drinking water. Aid workers are warning of an impending humanitarian disaster.

Liberia has been in the throes of civil war for 14 years. President Charles Taylor, who came to power in 1997, has been indicted for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has repeatedly promised to leave office, though not before peacekeeping forces are installed.

Rebel forces want Mr. Taylor out of office and out of Liberia immediately. Experts say that the rebels do not believe Mr. Taylor intends to leave unless he is forced to, which is what they are determined to do.