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Mediators Hope Liberian Peace Deal Near - 2003-08-18


Mediators are hopeful that Liberian rebels and government representatives will sign a peace agreement. Pressure is on all sides to formulate a plan for a transitional government that will oversee elections and a return to peace after 14 years of civil war.

After a threat from organizers to call off the peace talks in Ghana unless some headway was made, rebel leaders backed down on their demand for the vice-presidency in a new transitional government for Liberia. That appears to clear the way for a peace agreement and a compromise on representation in the new government.

Each of the two main rebel groups and the government are to be allotted 12 seats in the transitional government, up from the seven originally offered, but less than the 15 the rebels had wanted.

According to mediators, none of the top four positions in the transitional government is to go to any of the warring factions.

A transitional government needs to be in place by mid-October when the current presidential term ends. New President Moses Blah is serving out the final weeks of his predecessor Charles Taylor's term.

Representatives of the main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, told reporters earlier that nothing stands in the way of signing an agreement.

Meanwhile, talks are continuing and a ceremony for the signing of any peace agreement was tentatively scheduled for later in the day.

One week ago, 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.