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Liberian Government, Rebels Sign Peace Deal - 2003-08-18


Liberian rebel and government representatives have signed a peace agreement in Ghana. The deal will put into place a transitional government to oversee elections and a return to peace after 14 years of fighting.

A power-sharing deal that sets the terms for a transitional government has been brokered. The new government will come into office in mid-October when the current term of President Moses Blah comes to an end. Mr. Blah is serving out the final weeks of his predecessor Charles Taylor's term in office.

It took a threat from organizers that they would call off the peace talks in Ghana unless some headway was made, to secure the deal. Rebel leaders were forced to back down on their claim for the vice presidency so that peace talks could go on.

There were further compromises. Each of the two main rebel groups and the government have been allotted 12 seats in the transitional government, up from the seven originally offered but less than the 15 the rebels had wanted.

The names of the nominees for the positions could be put forward as soon as Tuesday. However, no one from the government or the rebel groups will take a leading role in that new government.

Instead the government and rebel delegations will be able to choose from a short list of three civilian candidates for the two top posts of "chairman" and "deputy chairman". The three civilian candidates will be nominated by political parties and civil society groups.

The new government will oversee Liberia's return to peace and organize elections in 2006.

The power-sharing deal comes exactly one week after Charles Taylor stepped down from Liberia's presidency and took asylum in Nigeria. Mr. Taylor is widely blamed as the key protagonist in Liberia's long civil war.

But there are many challenges ahead. Mr. Taylor left Liberia, a once prosperous African nation, economically ruined. Hungry Liberians are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. The country is awash with guns and many of the child soldiers that were forcibly brought to the front to fight, have known nothing other than conflict.