The United States has introduced a draft U.N. resolution authorizing a multinational force for Liberia to enable the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The resolution expresses deep concern over the conflict in Liberia and "the tragic loss of countless innocent lives in that country."
In order to stabilize the troubled West African nation and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, the U.S. proposal calls for the Security Council to authorize the deployment of regional troops from the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS. Then, U.N. peacekeepers would deploy by October 1.
The resolution responds to Secretary General Kofi Annan's urgent request that the Security Council provide some financial support for two battalions of about 1,500 Nigerian peacekeepers preparing a mission to Liberia, where fighting between government and rebel forces has created a humanitarian crisis.
But U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte says the plan does not deal with a future U.S. role in Liberia, which was established by former U.S. slaves. For now, he says, U.S. forces off Liberia's shores will provide logistical support for the Nigerian troops to be followed by peacekeepers from Ghana, Mali and Senegal.
"What we have talked about is ECOWAS taking the lead in this effort and ourselves being supportive. What specific form support from our own military might take at some point in the future I'm just not prepared to speculate on," he said. "But at the moment we're talking about providing support to ECOWAS and the Untied Nations in its effort to bring peace to Liberia and to enable us to deal with this very desperate humanitarian situation."
Mr. Negroponte says the resolution does not set the departure of Liberian President Charles Taylor as a condition for the deployment of the multi-national troops. But it urges Mr. Taylor, under indictment for war crimes, to abide by an earlier agreement to leave the country immediately.
The Security Council held consultations on the draft resolution and now a team of experts is going over the text.
German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger says he questions whether a provision exempting the peacekeepers from prosecution is necessary. The sentence is an apparent reference to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which the Bush Administration opposes. But Mr. Pleuger says, in general, there was little opposition to the resolution among council members.
"I think there was no basic opposition to the resolution or points of the resolution, there was no political opposition to that," he said.
Although the situation in Liberia continues to deteriorate, it is unclear if the Security Council will be ready to vote on authorizing the mutli-national peacekeepers by the end of the week.