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Nigeria Rejects Call to Hand Over Former Liberian President to UN - 2003-12-04

Nigeria has dismissed the latest effort by the international community to have former Liberian President Charles Taylor arrested. Mr. Taylor, who has been indicted on war crime charges, lives in exile in Nigeria.

Presidential spokeswoman Remi Oyo says Nigeria will keep on resisting international pressure to arrest Mr. Taylor, now living in exile in a secluded villa in the country's southeast.

She says Nigeria's government had wide consultations before granting asylum to the former Liberian leader in August. His departure from Liberia effectively ended nearly two decades of civil war there.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has said he would consider handing over Mr. Taylor to the new government in Liberia, but not to the special United Nations-backed court in Sierra Leone.

The international police organization, Interpol, issued a red-alert arrest notice for Mr. Taylor on Thursday, after receiving a request from the court in Sierra Leone.

The notice is not technically an arrest warrant, but national police can use it to make what is called a provisional arrest. It was posted on Interpol's Web site, with a warning that Mr. Taylor may be dangerous.

The former Liberian leader is wanted by the court in Freetown for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the civil war in the 1990s in Sierra Leone. He denies accusations that he backed rebels there to profit from the smuggling of diamonds and weapons.

Liberia's interim leader, Gyude Bryant, has also said he wants Mr. Taylor to remain in Nigeria for now. He says bringing Mr. Taylor to court would inflame tensions in Liberia, where disarmament of former warring factions is about to start.

The British and American-funded court in Sierra Leone indicted Mr. Taylor for war crimes in June, while he was still president and attending Liberian peace talks in Ghana. Ghanaian officials at the time said the indictment was an embarrassment to their mediation efforts.