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Bush Signs Law Containing Reward Money for Capture of Charles Taylor - 2003-11-06

Legislation signed by President Bush Thursday to fund military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan also includes provisions for a reward for the capture of exiled former Liberian leader Charles Taylor.

Buried deep within the multi-billion dollar bill signed by the President is a provision authorizing payment of $2 million in reward money for what is termed "an indictee of the Special Court for Sierra Leone."

The indictee is not named in the legislation. But government and Congressional sources confirm to VOA that it is Charles Taylor, who was charged by the U.N. backed court in June for his alleged support of rebels in Sierra Leone.

Officials of the State Department and the Pentagon were not immediately available to comment on any plans for implementing the bounty offer.

But late last month, the State Department's then-top Africa official, Walter Kansteiner, said Mr. Taylor should face justice before the Special Court. He also disclosed the United States had held talks with Nigeria, where Mr. Taylor has been living in exile, about bringing him before the court.

Mr. Taylor was forced into exile in Nigeria in August under heavy U.S. pressure. His departure paved the way for deployment of peacekeeping forces, including a U.S. military contingent that provided support to African troops sent in to restore calm.

Mr. Taylor has been accused of seeking to influence events in Liberia from exile.

But Mr. Kansteiner told reporters that every day that Mr. Taylor was out of the country, his influence was diminishing. However he said Mr. Taylor, in his words, still needed to be watched "like a hawk," especially by Nigeria.

The U.S. reward offer for his capture follows an offer earlier this year by a private British-American security group to kidnap Mr. Taylor and bring him before the court in Sierra Leone.

Northbridge Services Group claimed in a July 22 statement that it had been asked to assist "certain local organizations" in enforcing the court's indictments. News reports said the company had held talks with rebels opposed to Mr. Taylor before he went into exile.

The firm was subsequently reported as being under investigation by officials in both Britain and the United States for possible violations of U.N. arms embargoes.

In response to the reported investigations, Northbridge said its proposal for acting as what it termed a "constabulary force" for the Special war crimes Court to bring Mr. Taylor to justice remained in force.

But it stressed it would not take part in any activities unless sanctioned by the United Nations. It said it would never violate U.N. sanctions.

Representatives of the company failed to respond to a request for comment on the new bounty offer.