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Second US Military Assessment Team Arrives in W. Africa - 2003-07-10


A second U.S. military assessment has arrived in West Africa to prepare for the deployment of international peacekeepers in Liberia. The second team arrived in Ghana Thursday for talks with West African officials, while the first team continues its work inside Liberia.

The second team is meeting with officials from ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, in Ghana's capital, Accra.

The 10-member team is assessing how the United States can help an initial deployment of 1,000 peacekeepers that ECOWAS has promised within two weeks.

Ghana is also where Liberian peace talks have taken place since last month and where a ceasefire agreement which calls for Liberian President Charles Taylor to step down was signed.

All parties in the conflict, the international community and West African mediators have called on the United States to help the international force, not only with money and logistics but also with troops.

Mr. Taylor has said he will leave power only if U.S. soldiers arrive so chaos can be avoided. Rebels have also said only the arrival of a U.S.-led force and the departure of Mr. Taylor can effectively end the four-year conflict.

President Bush, on a visit to Africa, has said all options are being considered carefully. He has also called on Mr. Taylor to leave Liberia immediately.

Another U.S. military team has been inside Liberia since Monday, assessing the humanitarian situation and visiting the airport and the main port in the capital, Monrovia. The 30-member team has been accompanied most of the way by thousands of screaming civilians who have pleaded for more U.S. help.

Liberia was founded by freed American slaves and has had close economic and cultural ties with the United States.