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7/11/03 - U.S. WELCOMED IN LIBERIA - 2003-07-11

A team of U.S. military experts is in Liberia to determine how the U.S. can help end one of Africa's most vicious civil wars. The fighting since 1989 has killed more than two-hundred-thousand Liberians. A million others have been made refugees. Charles Taylor has been in power since 1997. Since then, he has looted and terrorized Liberia. President George W. Bush says it is time for Mr. Taylor to go:

“In Liberia, the United States strongly supports the cease-fire agreement signed last month. President Taylor needs to leave Liberia so that his country can be spared further grief and bloodshed.”

What the U.S. does not want to see, as Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “is a sudden vacuum which causes even more instability in that very troubled country.” Mr. Powell said the U.S. believes “the presence of U.S. peacekeepers should be coincident with [Taylor's] departure.”

The Liberian people couldn't agree more. The visiting U.S. experts were greeted by huge crowds of Liberians shouting, "We want peace!" and calling for an end to Taylor's corrupt and repressive rule. A Liberian woman told a news correspondent that her countrymen were "tired of war, tired of the raping, the killing, tired of the looting."

The U.S. is working with African nations to end the crisis in Liberia and is seeking partnership with African nations to promote stability and economic advancement. President Bush said the U.S. is “in the process of determining what is necessary to maintain the cease-fire and to allow for a peaceful transfer of power.” The United Nations will be involved. And the U.S., said Mr. Bush, will participate with the Economic Community of West African States:

"In a time of growing commerce across the globe, we will ensure that the nations of Africa are full partners in the trade and prosperity of the world. Against the waste and violence of civil war, we will stand together for peace. Against the merciless terrorists who threaten every nation, we will wage an unrelenting campaign of justice."

The dictator Charles Taylor has promised to leave Liberia. The sooner he does, the sooner the Liberian people can begin the difficult task of putting their war-torn country back together.