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W. African Peacekeepers Enter Liberia's 2nd Port City - 2003-08-29

West African peacekeepers have entered Liberia's second port city of Buchanan to the cheers of refugees lining the road. Liberia's President Moses Blah has apologized to the families of those killed in the 14 years of civil war.

Until now, the peacekeepers have been deployed largely in the capital, Monrovia. Sporadic fighting and looting by rebel and government soldiers have been reported in many areas of the country.

In Buchanan, Liberia's second largest city, many people remained in hiding, despite last week's peace agreement between the government and leading rebels.

U.S. Ambassador John Blaney was among the officials who accompanied the convoy of west African military and civilian vehicles entering Buchanan.

In a radio address delivered late Thursday, caretaker President Moses Blah said he would soon declare three days of national mourning for those who died since 1999 when rebels mounted a campaign to oust his predecessor, Charles Taylor. Mr. Blah said he had no intention of staying in office after October 14, when he is due to hand power over to the leader of Liberia's transitional government, Gyude Bryant.

Liberia's civil war officially ended when former President Charles Taylor, yielding to rebel and international pressure, stepped down and moved into exile in Nigeria. A peace agreement was signed August 18.

But much of Liberian hinterland remains unsafe. Though humanitarian assistance is desperately needed, aid workers are unable to deliver food to the starving until their own safety can be assured.