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Bush Mulls Possibility of Deploying US Troops to Liberia

President Bush is considering sending U.S. troops to Liberia to help enforce a cease-fire.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush is considering all options to help stop the fighting in Liberia. "The United States is actively discussing what the next steps should be to help the parties to meet their obligations to cooperate with the joint verification team that is in place to ensure that the cease-fire holds," Mr. Fleischer said.

Mr. Fleischer said the president has not ruled out the possible use of U.S. troops in the country.

Mr. Bush last week called on Liberian President Charles Taylor to step down from power to prevent further bloodshed. President Taylor's resignation is part of the cease-fire deal. But the Liberian leader has resisted that plan, suggesting that he might consider stepping down if he is no longer charged with war crimes for his involvement in neighboring Sierra Leone.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher Tuesday said those war crimes charges are not subject to negotiation. He said dropping those charges as part of a deal to get Mr. Taylor to resign is something the Bush administration "takes a dim view of."

He said the United States supports the U.N. court and its charges against President Taylor, who Mr. Boucher said should have no place in a future Liberian government.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan wants President Bush to use U.S. troops to lead a peacekeeping force to Liberia where hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands of others displaced in the latest fighting around the capital, Monrovia.

Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke with Mr. Annan to discuss the situation in Liberia and what the United States might do to help end the conflict.

Mr. Fleischer said that involvement, so far, has focused on backing efforts led by the Economic Community of West African States. "The United States is working with regional governments to support the negotiations and to map out a secure transition to elections which have been called for in Liberia. The president is determined to help the people of Liberia to find a path to peace. The exact steps that could be taken are still under review," he said.

West African leaders have promised to contribute to a peacekeeping force.

But they say the United States should help because of its special relationship with Liberia, which was founded in 1847 by freed American slaves.