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Peacekeepers Hope to Move into Liberian Interior - 2003-09-09


West African peacekeepers in Liberia hope to finally deploy troops outside Monrovia, the capital, on Tuesday, following several days of delays.

Peacekeeping officials delayed movement of 600 peacekeepers for the second time in three days late Monday. The postponement followed reports of fighting near the town of Todee, north of Monrovia.

The peacekeepers originally expected to take over a corridor between the north-central towns of Kakata and Totota on Saturday. But Liberia's Defense Minister Daniel Chea ordered a postponement because government militias had not yet left the area.

Aid workers have been anxious for the peacekeepers to advance into the interior, where rebel forces have reportedly driven thousands of people from their homes and refugee camps.

Fighting has subsided in the capital city, but clashes continue in other parts of Liberia despite a peace deal between the government and rebels nearly three weeks ago.

The West African peacekeeping force is due to reach its full strength -- 3,500 troops -- by the middle of the week. But the United Nations special representative to Liberia, Jacques Klein, says that number is far below the level needed to restore stability throughout the countryside.

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