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Transitional Government Set To Take Over In Liberia - 2003-10-13

Final preparations are being made in Liberia for the swearing-in of a transitionalbv government to end 15 years of nearly continuous civil war.

Tuesday in Liberia's capital Monrovia, the low-profile businessman, Gyude Bryant, will be sworn as transitional leader to guide the ruined west African nation to elections in late 2005.

His surprise selection as replacement for interim President Moses Blah was made by all Liberian parties during August peace talks in Ghana.

U-N peacekeepers will ensure security for the handover. Mission spokeswoman Margaret Novicki says many Liberians are cautiously optimistic everything will go smoothly.

"I think they feel certainly more secure now that the U-N mission in Liberia is up and running, and the fact that our troops have been very active in the capital and its environs in terms of making sure that there are no weapons still on the streets of Monrovia, so I think overall the assessment is a pretty optimistic one right now."

Previous handovers in Liberia have been marked by bloodshed. Mr. Bryant faces the task of disarming tens-of-thousands of armed fighters roaming the countryside, looting and terrorizing the population.

He will be assisted by an all-inclusive new government and a parliament made up of former rebels as well as leaders from political parties and civic organizations.

Despite the enormous task, one of the rebel political leaders, Moses Jarbo, says he is very optimistic.

"This is an opportunity for all of us as Liberians to come together and give our country and people a chance. The country has suffered too long and I think that, therefore, the time has come for us to give peace a chance.

Two rebel groups fought four years to topple former rebel-turned-President Charles Taylor, who now lives in exile in Nigeria.

Nigerian authorities have asked him not to interfere in the transition process and to stop using his cell phone for calls to Liberia.

Mr. Taylor has said he hopes to return to Liberia one day, even though he faces arrest if he leaves Nigeria.

A U-N-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone has indicted him for allegedly fueling instability throughout west Africa by illegally trading diamonds, timber, and weapons. Mr. Taylor portrays himself as a victim who has sacrificed his own freedom for the good of Liberians.