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Liberian Rebels Ask Bush to Send US Troops to End Civil War - 2003-07-15

Liberian rebels want President Bush to send an "overwhelming" number of U.S. troops to the country to help end the civil war. President Bush has still not decided whether U.S. soldiers will take part in a West African peacekeeping force.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Bush administration is "moving quickly" to sort through information from a humanitarian assessment team in Liberia and a U.S. military assessment team that met with West African officials in Ghana over the weekend.

While President Bush has expressed support for peacekeepers from the Economic Community of West African States of ECOWAS - Mr. McClellan says the president has still not decided whether U.S. troops will take part.

"The president has made it clear that if there is a need to help we want to help, and we want to help by participating with ECOWAS, so we are continuing to wait on the facts and assess the situation and then we will have more to say at that point," Mr. McClellan said.

Following a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan Monday, Mr. Bush said if he does send U.S. troops to Liberia, they would only go as part of a mission that is limited in size and duration and would only arrive after Liberian President Charles Taylor leaves power.

Mr. McClellan Tuesday repeated the call on President Taylor to resign and said Mr. Bush wants to understand what he calls "the full facts of the situation" before committing U.S. troops.

If those troops do go to Liberia, it would be the first peacekeeping deployment in Africa since the president's father sent troops to Somalia ten years ago.

A spokesman for the main Liberian rebel group said U.S. troops would provide what he calls "psychological comfort" to Liberians and signal an end to the country's civil war.

President Taylor has agreed to accept an offer of asylum from Nigeria but said he will only leave once peacekeepers arrive. His departure is further complicated by his facing charges of war crimes for his involvement in neighboring Sierra Leone.

During President Bush's trip to Africa last week he discussed the situation in Liberia with West African leaders including Ghana's John Kufour and Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo. Troops from Ghana and Nigeria are expected to make up the bulk of a regional peacekeeping force for Liberia, a country that was founded by freed American slaves.