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Peacekeepers in Liberia Press for Full Deployment in Rebel-Held Areas of Monrovia


Leaders of peacekeeping forces in Liberia are pressing for their full deployment in rebel-held parts of the capital, Monrovia. This includes the port, which they say needs to be secured to enable humanitarian assistance to be brought in to hungry Liberians.

The commander of the U.S. Marine task force anchored in Liberian waters off Monrovia, General Thomas Turner, is expected to meet with rebel leaders.

General Turner and the leader of the African peacekeeping forces want to secure Monrovia's port, the rebels' prized territorial possession, so that food and medical supplies can be shipped into the country.

Liberian journalist Winston Monboe told VOA on the telephone from Monrovia that although the city is calm, people still do not have access to food in government-held areas of the city. Neither are civilians able to go into rebel-held parts of the city where food supplies are more abundant. "People are still desperate for food. The food situation is still something that people are still finding difficult to get. The amount food that is available, it is too expensive, and people do not have the money to buy it," he said.

There are reports of renewed fighting in the south and east of the country.

Under considerable international pressure, Charles Taylor stepped down as president of Liberia, then surprised critics by taking up Nigeria's offer of asylum. He left Liberia late Monday.

Mr. Taylor's exit from Liberia was the rebel leaders' key condition before they would agree to relinquish control of the port to the peacekeepers.

According to Mr. Monboe, although peacekeepers arrived in Liberia more than a week ago, they are not a visible presence in even in government-held areas of the city. He said residents are disappointed. "They have not even deployed in the streets yet, so their presence is not felt at all. Except for yesterday during the inauguration when we saw the peacekeepers come into Monrovia, but at the end of the day they disappeared," he said.

Liberia's new president, Moses Blah, began his first full day in office amid hopes that 14 years of fighting in Liberia might be over. Aid agencies that pulled out of Liberia as the security situation deteriorated are looking to return to begin assisting in what shapes up as a long and difficult recovery process.

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