Bush to ask for Taylor's resignation

Intervening in Liberia's fierce battle between government forces and rebels, US President George W. Bush will on Thursday ask the nation's president, Charles Taylor, to step down, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.


    Call part of broader Africa policy

    President Bush will give the call for the resignation during an address in Washington outlining his policy towards Africa, the spokesman said.


    Bush will announce his support for the Liberian ceasefire that was signed earlier this month, and will call for Taylor to resign so that his country can be spared from further bloodshed, Fleischer said.


    Washington’s move comes amid reports that fighters loyal to Liberia's President Charles Taylor pushed rebels out of the capital's port on Thursday after fierce battles.


    Liberian military officials said rebels had retreated to the area around St Paul's River Bridge, about 10 km from the heart of the capital Monrovia. Residents said the rattle of automatic gunfire had died down after intense overnight fighting.


    Terrified populace


    "Our men managed to push them from the position they occupied over the last 24 hours up to Duala and beyond but we still intend to push them further," one official said.


    Duala, a bustling market area, is on the main road leading from the city centre to St Paul's River Bridge, a key access point into the coastal capital.


    Earlier, the rebels came close to central Monrovia. Only one bridge stood between the rebels and a feared bloodbath in the capital, where thousands of terrified people scrambled for refuge and were hemmed in by the killing on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.


    Letting loose rockets and mortars, the rebels in two days advanced through suburbs where hundreds were killed earlier this month.


    Among the dead were three Liberians killed when shells crashed into a US compound used as a storage area less than one km from the US embassy.


    The current showdown between President Charles Taylor and the rebel group LURD (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) is the latest round in nearly 14 years of violence.


    Taylor will be under
    immense pressure to quit

    It has wrecked hopes of a negotiated end to the fighting less than a week after a ceasefire was arrived at.


    President Taylor was recently indicted for war crimes in Sierra Leone by an international court. The Liberian situation is complicated by his position.


    Facing a desperate battle for survival and with no clear escape route, Taylor has vowed to fight on. The rebels have said they will not stop until they hold Monrovia.


    Caught between is a population of more than a million, in addition to hundreds of thousands of refugees in flimsy shelters.


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