President Bush has ordered U.S. troops to take up positions off the coast of Liberia to support the deployment of a West African peacekeeping force. Liberians are calling on Mr. Bush to send U.S. troops to the capital Monrovia to stop fighting between rebels and troops loyal to President Charles Taylor.
President Bush told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to position "appropriate military capabilities" off the Liberian coast to support a planned peacekeeping force from the Economic Community of West African States.
"U.S. troops will be there to help ECOWAS go in and serve as peacekeepers necessary to create the conditions so that humanitarian aid can go in and help the people of Liberia," he said.
While President Bush says he is "deeply concerned" that conditions there are getting "worse and worse and worse," he has made clear that any U.S. involvement in Liberia will be limited in time and scope until the United Nations assumes overall peacekeeping responsibilities and negotiates a political transition.
Mr. Bush repeated his call on President Taylor to step down, but White House officials say he has still not decided whether U.S. troops should take a more direct role in ending the fighting.