Taylor’s pledge to relinquish came just two days ahead of the planned arrival of West African peacekeepers in Monrovia to end a fierce spell of fighting between government forces and rebels.

“At 11.59 am on Monday, 11 August, I will step down and a new guy must be sworn in by midday on that Monday,” Taylor said after talks with a team of West African envoys.

Besides being besieged by advancing rebels seeking his ouster, Taylor has also been under intense international pressure to step down.

But Taylor stopped short of giving a date for his eventual departure from the country, though Nigeria has offered asylum to him.

“The most important thing is that everything we have said about resigning and leaving will happen,” Taylor said.

Rebels battling the government forces have been insistent on Taylor’s resignation to end Liberia’s long drawn war.

''At 11.59 am on Monday, 11 August, I will step down and a new guy must be sworn in by midday on that Monday''

Charles Taylor,
Liberian President

Diplomats however responded to Taylor’s pledge with cautious optimism.

“Lets take on thing at a time,” said Muhammad Ibn Chambas, one of the envoys sent to persuade Taylor to go.

“I have no misgivings. I feel the process has started that will bring about durable peace. We will stay the course,” he said.

The envoys had arrived in war-torn Monrovia to pressure Taylor into leaving.

Taylor’s forces meanwhile launched fierce attacks on rebels positions in the capital during the day, pushing rebels of the United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) from three key bridges in the city center.

Earlier, residents reported intense machinegun and rifle fire and said at least four civilians were wounded in the fighting.

Hundreds of civilians have died in the fighting that has been raging since the rebels launched their fresh offensive on Monrovia a fortnight ago.