Liberian talks in disarray

Liberian peace talks currently taking place in Ghana became further complicated on Saturday when rebels said they would agree for a truce only if President Charles Taylor resigns.

    President Charles Taylor wants 
    war crimes charges against him 
    to be dropped

    Kabineh Jan’neh, of the main rebel group – Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), said his group was ready to sign a ceasefire accord if Taylor quit within 10 days.

    There should also be an interim government in place within 10 days of the signing," he said.

    Although LURD would be receptive to being a part of the interim government, Jan’neh insisted that “this is not a condition.”

    But another rebel group based in southern Liberia – The Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), has taken a harder line.

    MODEL representative Eugene Wilson said: “We will not sign the ceasefire until Taylor quits.”

    "We want the United States or the Western powers to lead a stabilisation force in to Liberia before that," he added. "We have genuine fears about our security and we cannot enter Liberia before such a force is there already."

    Taylor, who was indicted last week by a UN Special Court in Sierra Leone for crimes against humanity during a decade-long civil war with Liberia's north-western neighbour, said last Thursday the charges would have to be dropped if the peace parleys in Ghana were to be successful.

    Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) brokering the peace talks in Ghana along with a UN-backed contact group, said earlier Saturday that the LURD had agreed to an unconditional truce.

    A US marine force will arrive in
    Liberia this week to help protect
    American nationals there

    Chambas had said he was hopeful the ceasefire would be signed on Saturday.

    LURD rose up against Taylor in 1999, just two years after the end of a seven-year civil war started by Taylor himself, which ended with his election to power in 1997.

    Rebels and the government agreed to a truce in principle after days of heavy fighting which saw the killing of hundreds and caused tens of thousands to flee.

    The LURD and MODEL control 12 of Liberia’s 15 counties. On Wednesday, they pulled away from the outskirts of the capital city Monrovia as negotiations continued.

    Meanwhile, a US marine expeditionary force was on its way by sea to Liberia to protect American nationals, a Western military source in Abidjan told the French news agency AFP on Saturday.
     
    The USS naval vessel Kearsarge, which took part in the war on Iraq and was on its way home, has been diverted and was expected to reach the shore off Monrovia by Wednesday or Thursday, he said.


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