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UN OKs Peacekeeping Force for Liberia - 2003-09-19

The United Nations has approved up to 15,000 peacekeepers for Liberia. The force will take over from the current West African peacekeeping troops on October 1.

The Security Council unanimously approved the Liberia force, giving it a one-year mandate. It is likely to take at least three months, however, just to get the full complement of troops on the ground.

The main contingent will be made up of 3,500 Nigerian troops already serving there as part of a West African peacekeeping force.

The chief U.N. envoy to Liberia, Jacques Klein described the country this week as a failed state where former soldiers are engaging in rape and robbery. He predicted the situation would get worse before it gets better.

After Friday's vote, the Security Council president Britain's ambassador Emyr Jones Parry called the Liberia resolution - and another extending a similar mandate in neighboring Sierra Leone - a symbol of the world body's commitment to African peacekeeping.

"Those resolutions reflect the determination of the United Nations, the Security Council, to bring relief to the people who have suffered for too long in both those countries and more importantly the regional impact of a conflict which has been very destructive," he said.

The Liberia force is likely to include troops from Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa, Ethiopia, Namibia, Russia and Ireland.

More than 200,000 people are believed to have died as a result of the 14-year war in Liberia, a country of three million. The U.N. peacekeepers will monitor a ceasefire between the Monrovia government formerly headed by Charles Taylor, and two rebel groups.

Mr. Taylor went into exile last month in Nigeria. He has been accused of stealing millions of dollars before he fled Liberia, and has been indicted by a U.N. backed court for inciting war in Sierra Leone.