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Liberia's Interim President  Visits Neighboring Countries - 2003-08-23

Liberia's caretaker president has been visiting neighboring heads of state to get their support for long-lasting peace in Liberia.

Liberian President Moses Blah has been touring the region in a bid to heal old wounds. Among the countries he is visiting are Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the previous Liberian president, Charles Taylor, was accused of supporting anti-government insurrections.

By contrast, two other stops, Guinea and Ivory Coast, have both been accused of supporting the Liberia rebel groups who fought to force Charles Taylor out of office.

Nine hundred Nigerian troops are already stationed in Liberia for peacekeeping operations. They are due to be joined by more troops from Ghana, Mali and Senegal. South Africa and Ethiopia have also promised to add to what will be a 3,000-man regional peacekeeping force.

So far, the small number of peacekeepers in Liberia have confined themselves to the capital, Monrovia. While President Blah is hoping for a more peaceful future with his neighbors, rebel and government forces continue to clash in the Liberian countryside.

Mr. Blah was selected by Charles Taylor to serve out his term in office after Mr. Taylor was forced into exile in Nigeria.

That term expires in November, and Liberia will then be led by Charles Gyude Bryant, a businessman who has been chosen as chairman of an interim government that will run Liberia until 2005.