The United States is calling on Liberian President Charles Taylor to live up to his stated commitments and step aside to allow a transitional government to be formed in the war-torn country. The State Department says there "is no place" for Mr. Taylor in any future Liberian government.
The United States, along with the European Union, Nigeria and Ghana, signed last Tuesday's Liberian cease-fire accord as an observer. And it is calling on Mr. Taylor to adhere to his obligation under the agreement to step down and cede power to an interim government to be set up in Monrovia within 30 days.
Mr. Taylor, the Liberian warlord-turned-president, threw the country's peace process into doubt Friday with a broadcast statement that he would not step down before his term ends in January, and that he reserved to right to run again whenever new elections are held.
At briefing here, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker noted that Mr. Taylor had told assembled African heads of state June 4 at the opening of Liberian peace talks in Ghana that he was prepared to step aside in the interest of peace, and that his representatives signed the truce agreement Tuesday providing for an interim government that would specifically exclude him.
"We believe that Charles Taylor must abide by these two commitments," said spokesman Reeker. "And we call on the delegates to the Accra talks to agree promptly on the terms of a transition government as they had agreed to do. And we hope that this transition government will be able to take office as soon as possible. We believe that there's no place for Charles Taylor in the transitional government or in any future government of Liberia."
Rebels who have been fighting since 1999 to oust Mr. Taylor, and now control most of the country, say they will not fulfill their part of the agreement unless he steps down.
Mr. Taylor, elected Liberia's president in 1997 after leading his own seven-year rebellion, is under U.N. sanctions as an instigator of conflict in neighboring states, and was indicted by a U.N. special court last month for war crimes by rebels in Sierra Leone.
In his broadcast appearance Friday in Monrovia, he said the Liberian peace process would be in doubt as long as any war crimes indictment against him was in effect.
Spokesman Reeker said the United States supports the Sierra Leone court and the pursuit of justice for those who committed atrocities in that country. However he declined to call for Mr. Taylor's surrender to prosecutors, referring the issue to the court itself.