At an emergency summit in Ghana on Thursday, the leaders of the West African ECOWAS group decided to send a force of two Nigerian battalions of up to 1,500 to Monrovia.

The executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mohamed ibn Chambas, said the foreign ministers of Ghana and Togo will travel to Monrovia on Friday to inform Taylor of the decision and arrange the handover of power.

"It was agreed that within three days of the entry of ECOWAS troops in Liberia, President Taylor will hand over power to his successor and depart for Nigeria", a statement issued at the end of the summit said.

Asylum offer

Taylor has already accepted an offer of asylum from Nigeria and said he would leave once peacekeepers arrive.  

At the Accra talks, Ghanaian President John Kufuor urged fellow west Africans to contribute troops to the force but warned them that deployment in Liberia could last for over a year.

President Charles Taylor has
been urged to step down

"Today we are faced with a rapidly deteriorating crisis and a humanitarian tragedy that must be adressed quickly if Liberia is to be saved from self-destruction," he said.

"I therefore urge all member states which are yet to declare their contribution to make their intentions known to us today."

So far, in addition to the Nigerian battalions, Mali and Ghana have also been mentioned as future contributors of soldiers to the regional force.

Insufficient numbers

But Kufuor told the Accra gathering the current numbers were insufficient.

"Additional troop contributions are needed to raise the total force to a level equal to the task in hand," he said.  

Charles Taylor's forces have been battling rebel Liberians around Monrovia for 13 days.

Small arms fire and the boom of rocket propelled grenades continued on and off throughout Wednesday night and into the morning in the besieged capital.

There were also clashes in the second city of Buchanan, which fell to a second rebel faction on Monday, and in Taylor's old bush stronghold of Gbarnga.