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US Team Blocked in Liberia; Decision on Sending Troops Pending - 2003-07-08

Pro-government soldiers in Liberia have prevented a U.S. military assessment team from visiting a refugee camp on the outskirts of Monrovia. Meanwhile, President Bush has not announced whether he will send U.S. peacekeepers to Liberia.

The U.S. convoy halted outside the refugee camp, located about 10 kilometers from Monrovia, when the Liberian soldiers guarding it started firing warning shots.

Hundreds of civilians who were accompanying the convoy by foot immediately fled.

Speaking to foreign journalists, Liberian President Charles Taylor said the U.S. assessment team had failed to ask for permission to conduct the visit. He said if they do, they will be given proper escort.

Mr. Taylor has said he will seek safe haven in Nigeria in an effort to help end the four-year insurgency against rebels, but that U.S. peacekeepers must be deployed so chaos can be avoided.

President Bush has called for Mr. Taylor to leave Liberia immediately so a transition government without him can be established, as called for in a ceasefire signed at peace talks in Ghana last month.