The 20-member team of ambassadors and senior diplomats from the 15-nation United Nations Security Council has scheduled meetings with Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo and members of the group ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States). 

 

They will also discuss the failed Liberian ceasefire brokered by ECOWAS. The visit comes after France and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan threw their weight behind the idea of an international peacekeeping force.   

 

Annan on Saturday, warned in a letter to the Council that broader international action was urgently needed to reverse Liberia's drift towards total disintegration.

 

He requested the Security Council to authorize deployment to Liberia of a highly trained and well-equipped multinational force to prevent a major humanitarian tragedy and to stabilize the situation in that country," he said, in a letter to the UN Security Council President, Sergei Lavrov.

 

Adverse repercussions

 

The UN chief warned that the consequences of allowing the situation to spiral out of control are too terrible to contemplate not only for Liberia, but also for countries in the region, especially neighbouring Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.

  

About one million people, or a third of Liberia's population, were seeking refuge in an already overcrowded Monrovia and nearly all international relief operations have stopped, he said.

  

Annan warned that a combination of cholera, food shortages, disruption of life-saving services and a stop in humanitarian aid threatened to cause a major humanitarian catastrophe.

  

A section of Liberians have been asking the United States to send in peace-keepers to the country.  US President George W Bush, other than asking his Liberian counterpart to resign, has not acceded so far to the request to send the peace-keepers.

 

Liberian child-soldiers
indicative of grim situation

France, which opposed the US invasion of Iraq, has expressed its preference for a UN peacekeeping force rather than one by the US alone.

 

Liberia has witnessed internal violence for the last 14 years.  The latest assault by rebels on the capital Monrovia has left at least 700 dead in 10 days.

 

Two rebel groups control 60 percent of the country. They want to get rid of Taylor, a former warlord indicted for war crimes by an international court.