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Charles Taylor's Rule Nears End; Peacekeepers Struggle to Widen  Deployment - 2003-08-10


Liberia President Charles Taylor is in what is scheduled to be his last full day in office, but rebels remain skeptical about whether and when he will leave the country. Meanwhile, leaders of the regional peacekeeping forces that began arriving in Liberia nearly a week ago are still trying to secure an arrangement that will allow them to extend their deployment in rebel-held areas of the capital, Monrovia.

Charles Taylor has promised to step down from power on Monday, when he will hand over the presidency of Liberia to his vice president, Moses Blah.

African leaders are flying in from across the continent to witness the handover.

But rebels have repeatedly said there will be no peace in Liberia, until Mr. Taylor leaves the country, as well as the presidency.

Mr. Taylor is understood to have been offered asylum in Nigeria, and although pressure for him to leave is mounting, he appears reluctant to leave Liberia, while an indictment for war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone still stands.

Rebels have refused to relinquish control of their territory, while President Taylor remains in power and in the country. Rebel forces control Monrovia's port, which peacekeepers want to secure to enable food and medical supplies to be shipped into the country.

Reports have circulated that a U.S.-backed proposal for a humanitarian corridor from the rebel-held port has been accepted by rebel leaders. However, there has been no confirmation as to when that might be set up.

Aid organizations have brought limited food and medical supplies into Liberia through the international airport, but this has not been enough to meet the massive demand.

Liberia has been ravaged by 14 years of bloody conflict. Tens-of-thousands have been killed in the fighting, and many have been displaced or fled the country altogether.

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