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Pentagon Says US Military to Play Support Role in Liberia - 2003-08-01

The U.S. amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima with a contingent of American Marines on board is expected to take up position off the coast of Liberia Saturday. The arrival comes as West African peacekeepers prepare to move into Liberia.

Pentagon sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say the Iwo Jima and another U.S. Navy vessel traveling with it are moving into position off Liberia and should drop anchor off the coast Saturday. A third ship in the Iwo Jima so-called amphibious ready group will follow.

The sources stress there has still been no formal decision made by the Bush administration on the mission of the ships and the more than 2,000 Marines they are carrying.

However, a senior defense official has told VOA there are no plans to insert substantial numbers of Americans into Liberia to carry out patrols, man roadblocks or perform other active peacekeeping duties.

Instead, this official says the U.S. military role will be restricted to supporting West African peacekeepers with communications, intelligence, transportation and supplies.