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Obstacles Hamper Aid Distribution in Monrovia - 2003-08-16

In Liberia, humanitarian operations have begun, but there are major obstacles to aid distribution from Monrovia's port.

Two U.N. ships carrying food and medical supplies have docked at the main port, following the withdrawal of rebels from the area.

Limited supplies have been brought in by air, but aid workers say the big problem now is distributing the food.

Though the ships have arrived, their cargoes are still on board, because the equipment needed to unload the vessels has been damaged.

In addition to shortages of food and drinking water in Monrovia, fuel is scarce, adding to the problems distributing aid.

U.N. envoy Jacques Paul Klein says that because of the deplorable humanitarian situation, he is pressing for the lifting of U.N. sanctions imposed on Liberia.

The port was reopened by a contingent of West African peacekeepers with support from about 40 U.S. marines.

The African peacekeeping force, which began arriving nearly two weeks ago, has yet to reach its full strength. A second battalion of Nigerian troops is due from the northern Nigerian town of Sokoto, and will double to size of the existing peacekeeping force to about 1,500.

Mr. Klein traveled to nearby Ghana Saturday to participate in peace talks there. The new Liberian president, Moses Blah, and leaders of the main rebel groups have already gathered in the Ghanaian capital to try to agree on a path toward installing a transitional government in Liberia.