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Peacekeepers Prepare to Push Into Liberian Countryside - 2003-09-13


In Liberia, West African peacekeepers are preparing another push into the countryside to separate government and rebel forces. The move comes as the United Nations takes steps to set up a U.N. peacekeeping force. U.N. special representative to Liberia Jacques Klein said he would ask the Security Council for about 15,000 troops. Mr. Klein also said former President Charles Taylor continues to involve himself in the affairs of Liberia from his exile in Nigeria.

In Liberia, the West African peacekeeping force is preparing to make its second major push into the Liberian countryside. More than 500 troops are moving into the port city of Buchanan, where they will set up a divide between government and rebel forces in the area.

The West African peacekeepers made their first deployment outside the capital Monrovia last Tuesday. Despite a peace agreement between the post-Taylor Liberian government and rebel leaders, sporadic fighting continues in the Liberian countryside.

According to Jacques Klein, the former Liberian president is in contact with the transitional government of Liberia by telephone two or three times every day.

Mr. Klein says there is also good evidence that members of the transitional government and Liberian business leaders have been visiting Mr. Taylor in his Nigeria refuge.

If true, these contacts would contravene the agreement that Mr. Taylor made on going into exile in Nigeria, where he agreed to maintain a low profile and remain apolitical. Speaking at U.N. headquarters in New York, Mr. Klein warned that Mr. Taylor's exile status might be thrown into jeopardy.

Charles Taylor was given exile status by Nigeria as a means of ending Liberia's long-running civil war. Rebels wanted to see Charles Taylor out of power and out of the country before they would make any peace deal.

Mr. Taylor has been indicted for war crimes in Sierra Leone. Should his exile in Nigeria be revoked, this could leave him open to prosecution and eventual imprisonment.

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