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Taylor Supporters Seek New Asylum Deal

Supporters close to deposed Liberian leader Charles Taylor say they are seeking a new asylum deal for the former warlord, as pressure mounts for his extradition. Liberia's president says she wants him sent directly to Sierra Leone's special court.

Charles Taylor has lived in exile in Nigeria since 2003, when he agreed to leave power, an act that ended nearly a decade and a half of on and off civil war in Liberia.

But the Nigerian government recently agreed to hand him over to Liberian authorities, following a request from Liberia's newly elected president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

A Taylor spiritual adviser, K.A. Paul, says he is trying reach a deal with the government of Ethiopia to grant the deposed Liberian president asylum.

"I have asked him if he would like me to arrange another asylum somewhere else. If Charles Taylor is not allowed to stay in Nigeria, I want him to stay somewhere else until the right time comes for him to face charges. That is why I am in Ethiopia," he said.

Paul says he is in similar negotiations with several other countries, and that at least one of them has already agreed to accept Taylor.

But Taylor's whereabouts are unclear. Paul, who was with Taylor when he negotiated his original asylum deal with Nigeria three years ago, says he has disappeared from his villa in the southern Nigerian city of Calabar.

Various international media also reported Taylor is missing. His spokesman in Nigeria, Sylvester Paasewe, said reports Taylor had fled are false.

If Taylor is extradited from Nigeria, there is confusion over where he will be sent next. The Nigerian government has long refused to honor a request by the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone to have him stand trial for war crimes related to his role in that country's civil war. Nigeria says Taylor can only be handed over to Liberian authorities.

But Liberian President Johnson Sirleaf said Taylor should not return to Liberia, which has only recently formed a new democratically elected government. She said he should be sent directly to the special court in Freetown.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has warned that security around Taylor's home must be tightened to prevent him from fleeing. Liberian democracy advocate Ezekiel Pajibo says the government of Nigeria must do more to facilitate Taylor's handover.

"Nigeria has abdicated its international responsibilities to have Mr. Taylor delivered to Sierra Leone. So it put the onus on the Liberian government. The Liberian government does not have the means to do that," said Pajibo.

Taylor led a brutal rebel campaign to overthrow Liberia's then-president Samuel Doe in the 1990s, before eventually being elected president himself. He is facing 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for backing rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone.