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7/23/03 - FIGHTING IN LIBERIA - 2003-07-23

Since civil war erupted in Liberia in the late 1980s, more than two-hundred thousand Liberians have died and one million have become refugees. In recent weeks the situation has deteriorated. Hundreds have been killed in the capital, Monrovia, in fighting between government troops and rebels trying to remove President Charles Taylor from office. The rebels include members of a group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, or the LURD.

Charles Taylor’s dictatorial regime has been responsible for serious human rights abuses in Liberia. As part of a negotiated cease-fire agreement, Taylor had promised to leave the country. As President George W. Bush has made clear, Taylor must go. And the LURD must stop its continued reckless and indiscriminate shelling of Monrovia. The LURD should abide by the terms of the cease-fire, said U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker, and focus on concluding the peace talks led by the Economic Community of West African States in Accra, Ghana:

“The cease-fire needs to be upheld. The talks in Ghana are an important decision point. And Liberia’s only way forward is through the peace process under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States.”

Mr. Reeker says that the LURD must “abide by the terms of the cease-fire, and operate along standard principles of human rights and diplomatic conventions”:

“If we are to trust them in the future to participate in the democratic governance of Liberia, we need to be able to see them keep their commitments now. We are calling upon the leader of the LURD group to immediately halt that offensive and for all Liberians to reenergize their efforts in achieving a peaceful negotiated settlement. We would also remind the leaders of Guinea and neighboring states of their international obligations and responsibilities to control their borders and prevent the flow of weapons and combatants into Liberia."

The sooner the fighting ends and a peace agreement is signed and Charles Taylor departs, the sooner the Liberian people can begin the difficult task of putting their war-torn country back together.