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Liberian Government, Rebels to Name Transitional Government Members - 2003-08-20

Liberian government and rebel representatives meeting in Ghana are expected shortly to name members of a transitional government. Meanwhile in Liberia, thousands are reported starving as the food relief operation slowly gathers momentum, and continued fighting is reported away from the capital, Monrovia.

After rebels at the ongoing peace talks in Ghana backed down on their demands for key positions of power, the way appears clear for the selection of candidates to posts in the new government.

The transitional government is to oversee Liberia's return to peace and stage national elections in two years' time.

There is a choice of three candidates who might head up the transitional government. One is a former U.N. official and open opponent of former president Charles Taylor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The other two are Rudolph Sherman, who heads a coalition seen as sympathetic to Taylor, and businessman Jyude Bryant of the minor political party, the Liberia Action Party.

Meanwhile, for hungry Liberians the return to peace appears hollow with the continuing shortage of food.

Government and rebel leaders have promised to give aid workers unhindered access to all areas to enable the distribution of food supplies. But the situation remains dangerous.

Aid workers have not been able to distribute food beyond the area patrolled by west African peacekeepers in the capital, Monrovia. Government militias and rebels dominate the countryside, and there are reports of continued fighting near former president Taylor's old stronghold of Gbarnga, in the north of the country.

The fighting is not considered serious enough to hinder the peace talks. But it highlights the urgent need for the extension of the peacekeeping operation outside of Monrovia.