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Rumsfeld: No Decision Made on US Military Role in Liberia - 2003-08-05

There has still been no announcement about the role U.S. forces might play in Liberia, where West African peacekeeping troops have begun deploying to enforce a cease-fire and clear the way for the distribution of humanitarian assistance.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld describes as "encouraging" the arrival in Liberia of the first West African peacekeepers from the ECOWAS regional group.

But Mr. Rumsfeld tells reporters at the Pentagon President Bush has still made no decisions about the role U.S. forces might play in the crisis. He says he spoke with the vacationing president in Texas via a secure video link-up on Tuesday.

"What the president may or may not decide to do is up to the president and he's watching the situation very closely," he said. "We had a meeting this morning on secure video where we discussed the Liberia situation but we don't have any announcements to make at the moment."

A three-ship U.S. Navy amphibious assault group with more than 2,000 Marines has been dispatched to the coast of Liberia.

But its mission remains uncertain.

Still, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. armed forces, rejected one reporter's suggestion that if American troops do go into Liberia, they could face the same dangers as U.S. troops did in Somalia 10 years ago.

"There will be no commitment of troops anywhere in the world without some of the essentials we need and that is a clear mission, a clear end state and sufficient force to do the job," he said. "That's not an issue. I don't know who's talking about Somalia. This is not the same situation."

The ECOWAS countries are expected ultimately to send in to Liberia a force of more than 3,000 peacekeepers. U.S. defense officials have indicated the American military role will be limited to supporting the West African deployment with transportation, supplies, communications and intelligence information.