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Nigerian Peacekeepers Arrive in Liberia - 2003-08-04

Peacekeeping troops from Nigeria have begun arriving in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. The first helicopter loads of soldiers took up positions to secure Robertsfield International Airport for the arrival of an initial group of about 300 peacekeepers.

Their numbers are small, but the peacekeepers' arrival is a source of much-needed hope for Liberia's embattled people.

U.N. helicopters brought the Nigerian troops into Liberia from neighboring Sierra Leone in a driving rainstorm.

The soldiers are the vanguard of a West African peacekeeping force expected to total more than 3,000. Their mission is to end the fighting in Liberia and enable humanitarian groups to deliver food, water and medical care. A cargo plane filled with relief supplies also arrived at the Monrovia airport on Monday.

The bulk of the West African peacekeeping force will come from Nigeria, with additional troops promised from Ghana, Mali, Benin and Togo. The United States has promised financial and logistical support.

Both government and rebel officials have said they will welcome the peacekeepers.

In Rome, rebel leader Sekou Conneh has said his forces will stop fighting and withdraw from Monrovia, once the peacekeepers enter the city. Mr. Conneh has called for a cease-fire several times, but his own rebels have ignored him.

Liberian President Charles Taylor has agreed to resign next Monday. President Taylor has been under pressure from the international community, led by the United States, to leave office and leave the country.

Rebel forces remain openly skeptical of the president's intentions, and say say there will be no peace while Mr. Taylor remains in Liberia. Nigeria has offered Mr. Taylor asylum.