Liberian rebels declare truce

An immediate ceasefire has been called for by the Liberian rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

    At least 300 have been killed 
    last week alone

    In a statement sent to the media, LURD officials said the ceasefire took effect at 1000 GMT on Friday.

    They said they wanted to avoid a humanitarian disaster in the capital city, Monrovia.

    LURD said the truce would “provide needed relief to the civil populace and subsequently avoid a grotesque humanitarian catastrophe in Monrovia.”

    Liberia’s Minister of Defence, Daniel Chea, welcomed the announcement saying it was important to restore peace to the besieged coastal city.

    “It is welcome news. That has been our desire,” he told the Reuters new agency. He added that government forces would also hold their fire.

    Accusing President Charles Taylor, who is facing his toughest challenge in a four-year rebel war and currently controls only a fifth of Liberia, of using "civilians as cannon fodder", LURD said it would maintain its current positions in the seaside capital.

    But government soldiers immediately cried victory and went on a looting spree. Their haul ranged from everyday fare like fans and mattresses to rarities like bearskins.

    The recent fighting in Monrovia has killed some 300 civilians, according to Health Minister Peter Coleman.

    Monrovia was calm Friday after heavy overnight fighting. Government forces were in control of the area between the key port area and Saint Paul's Bridge – the entry to Monrovia – and were carrying out cleaning up operations.

    Residents said there was heavy shelling during the night before, which was replaced by small arms fire. Military sources said there was fighting in the commercial Claratown area, near the port.

    Liberian citizens continue to
    suffer from the ongoing conflict

    The violence has resulted in tens of thousands of people living in very poor conditions amid shortages of food, water, and medicines.

    Meanwhile, west African mediators in Ghana on Friday suspended ongoing peace talks for a week, saying negotiations were too difficult under present circumstances.

    LURD military commander Joe Wylie warned in Accra that the rebels would not "allow Mr Taylor to use the truce as a breather for regrouping to attack us as he boastfully did when he overran our positions," earlier.

    Last week, forces loyal to Liberian President Charles Taylor, and LURD rebels signed a truce agreement. But fighting resumed in the west African nation.

    Taylor said his government would remain in power until a transition period, which he suggested should start in January and last nine months with the vice-president in charge.

    He said the rebels could join his government before the transition period.

    LURD rose up against Taylor in 1999, just two years after the end of a seven-year civil war that saw Taylor assuming the Presidency in 1997.

    Both Taylor and the rebels are accused of widespread rights abuses. More than 200,00 people are said to have died in the Liberian civil war raging since early 1990s


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