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Bush National Security Team Meets on Liberia - 2003-07-03


President Bush's national security team is meeting again Thursday, as the administration considers whether to send peacekeeping troops to Liberia.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, meanwhile, reiterated that the departure of Liberian President Charles Taylor is essential for peace in the west African state.

The top-level White House meeting is the third in as many days, as the administration debates a possible U.S. military role in Liberian peacekeeping.

In a talk with reporters, Secretary of State Colin Powell said President Bush is exploring all options, diplomatic and military, but has made no decision yet on how to proceed. He said any peace scenario has to begin with the departure of Charles Taylor, as called for under the June 17 cease-fire accord reached in Ghana.

"We believe stability will only come to the country with the departure of President Taylor," he said. "In some of the earlier negotiations that led to the cease-fire, he agreed that that would be an appropriate step to take, and we hope it is a step that he will take at the appropriate time."

Mr. Powell said factors in the deliberations here include the security of the U.S. Embassy personnel in Monrovia and what he said is a severe humanitarian crisis emerging in the capital, where a rebel offensive last week led to hundreds of civilian deaths.