Liberia's government says fighting has intensified in the northern part of the country, where rebels are battling forces loyal to President Charles Taylor.

Liberian defense officials say rebels with the group known as Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy burned down the town of Kpatazu, near the border with Guinea.

The government says there have also been recent clashes between rebels and army troops in Kolahun. The government statement, which was not independently confirmed, followed rebel claims this month that they had captured Lofa County and had moved their offensive to regions closer to the Liberian capital, Monrovia.

In recent months, the fighting has forced tens of thousands of people to flee Lofa County, mainly to other parts of Liberia. But some of those fleeing have crossed the border into Ivory Coast, where humanitarian officials have had to ship emergency food supplies during the past month.

The skirmishes in Liberia have intensified as the war in neighboring Sierra Leone appears to be winding down. Witnesses in the Liberia-Sierra Leone border region say some combatants who were once involved in the Sierra Leonean war have gone to Liberia.

There is concern among governments in the region that conflict, while ending in Sierra Leone, is continuing to flare in other areas. Cabinet ministers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, nations making up the Mano River Union, met in the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, to discuss ways to end the conflicts in the region.