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US Urged to Lead Liberia Peacekeeping Force - 2003-06-28

The latest cease-fire in Liberia, announced by rebels on Friday, is reviving calls for an international peacekeeping force. There are increasing calls from both inside and outside Liberia for the United States to take the lead in helping to end the four-year war.

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock is leading a United Nations Security Council mission to West Africa. The mission's main goal is to help end Liberia's escalating conflict. Ambassador Greenstock has said the United States would be a natural choice to lead a peacekeeping force in Liberia, a historical U.S. ally, which was founded by freed American slaves.

French Foreign Affairs Minister Dominique de Villepin, who is also on an African tour, says an international force is needed in Liberia, so that a reconciliation process can begin between the warring sides. He says he, too, is waiting to see what the United States will do.

Rebels who control most of Liberia, but not Monrovia, have been repulsed from the capital for the second time in 10 days, prompting them to call for a new cease-fire.

Since the fighting died down, civilians have been gathering in front of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia to call for U.S. military action to bring peace.

Hundreds of people, including children, were killed in the latest fighting.

Liberian President Charles Taylor, who has declared victory over the rebels, is also calling on the United States to help end what he called "the mess" Liberians are in.

But Mr. Taylor has ignored calls by President Bush for him to step down immediately. During a speech in Washington Thursday, President Bush called on Mr. Taylor to resign to avoid further bloodshed and pave the way for a transitional government.

Mr. Taylor, himself a former rebel, also says peace efforts will fail, unless a special United Nations-backed court does not lift an indictment against him of war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone. Mr. Taylor has been accused of supporting rebels there, as well as in other countries, charges he denies.