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UN Official: US to Decide on Possible Force for Liberia After Deployment of Regional Troops - 2003-07-25


U.N. officials are welcoming the decision by ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, and Nigeria, to deploy two battalions of troops to troubled Liberia. The United States has pledged $10 million in logistical aid.

The secretary-general's special representative to Liberia, Jacques Klein, says it will take at least seven-to-ten days to send the regional troops to Monrovia. He says the vanguard force of two Nigerian battalions (about 1,500 troops) is insufficient to rein in the violence, but, it's a start.

"I need a battalion tomorrow morning. And then a second battalion in four days and then hopefully more," he said. "But right now we have nothing. So I [would be] pleased if we had one battalion on the ground to at least show there are some mature parties out there ready to engage and take this seriously while people are dying of cholera, dysentery, dehydration. We have to stop the killing."

Mr. Klein made his remarks after briefing the Security Council on the situation in Liberia, where civilians are desperately waiting for peacekeepers to end the fighting between rebel and government forces.

The top U.N. envoy to Liberia says that the United States will make its decision on sending a possible force to the West African nation, founded by freed U.S. slaves, after the deployment of the regional troops. He says, for now, the United Nations is supporting the mission.

One battalion of Nigerian troops, representing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is currently stationed in Sierra Leone. The second is in Lagos.

Mr. Klein says funding remains a key problem.

But U.S. ambassador John Negroponte announced that the United States will provide $10 million of material support from its peacekeeping budget.

"The intention of the $10 million is to provide support, including logistics, to ECOWAS, to support its decision to deploy those battalions to Liberia," he explained.

U.N., U.S. and West African officials have been holding ongoing talks in neighboring Sierra Leone to plan the deployment of the armed regional peacekeeping force.