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Liberia's President Holds Talks with Nigerian Counterpart On Asylum Offer - 2003-07-06

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has arrived in Liberia to discuss a possible asylum offer for embattled Liberian President Charles Taylor.

President Obasanjo arrived in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, for a two-hour meeting with Mr. Taylor at the airport to discuss a possible exit strategy for the Liberian leader.

Hundreds of pro-Taylor supporters greeted the Nigerian president. Some held up signs calling for the removal of an indictment for war crimes against Mr. Taylor in Sierra Leone.

The Liberian president has warned there will be no peace in his country if the indictment is not removed. Liberian officials said Mr. Taylor is hesitant to go to Nigeria because he fears he will be handed over to the special court in Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is sending an assessment team to Liberia to prepare for the possible deployment of American troops in conjunction with a West African peacekeeping force. But no decision has been made on the extent of U.S. participation in such a force.

President George W. Bush has called for Mr. Taylor to leave Liberia before the troops are deployed.

Two rebel groups control most of Liberia, but have been unable to capture Monrovia. A cease-fire calling for a transitional government without Mr. Taylor has been holding since last week, but humanitarian conditions in Monrovia are worsening for the more than 200,000 people left homeless by the latest rebel offensive.

Mr. Taylor has said he is ready to step down in the sake of peace, but that the transition process would be more orderly if he remained in power a few more months.

The Liberian leader has been accused of fueling instability throughout west Africa by supporting rebels and smuggling diamonds, timber and weapons, charges he denies.