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US Applauds Taylor Resignation; Urges Rebels to Maintain Cease-Fire - 2003-08-11

The United States has welcomed the resignation and exile of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, and is urging all parties to the conflict to maintain the cease-fire so that humanitarian aid can reach the Liberian people. U.S. officials are leaving open the possibility of bringing more U.S. military personnel into Monrovia to help coordinate aid and peacekeeping efforts.

The Bush administration had long been pressing for Charles Taylor's departure as a critical element for restoring peace in Liberia. And only moments after the Nigerian aircraft carrying Mr. Taylor left Monrovia, the development was welcomed by State Department spokesman Philip Reeker.

"It is certainly something that we had called for, that we wanted to see. It was an important part of the process. The resignation and departure from Liberia of Taylor is essential to restoring peace in Liberia. As I think you all know, Charles Taylor's been the catalyst for violence for some time in the region, so his departure is something that we welcome," Mr. Reeker said.

Mr. Reeker said the United States is pleased with the "peaceful and constitutional" transition in government in Monrovia. He said U.S. officials are looking forward to working with the West African economic grouping ECOWAS on increasing the size of its peacekeeping force, and preparing for the eventual entry of the U.N. force endorsed by the Security Council August 1.

The spokesman said the priority is now the delivery of humanitarian aid to victims of the Liberian conflict and that the U.S. military liaison team in Monrovia is working with West African peacekeepers to help coordinate the movement of supplies.

A three-ship U.S. Navy force has now moved within sight of the Liberian coast, and Mr. Reeker said President Bush "has all his options available" as to the possible augmentation of the American presence on shore.

A Pentagon official said the Navy flotilla, with some 3,000 U.S. Marines on board was intended as a "powerful message" to the warring factions to adhere to the cease-fire as efforts continue to open the port of Monrovia to relief shipments.

An estimated 250,000 displaced people in the capital are suffering from an acute shortage of food water and medical supplies, a situation the State Department termed "very dire."