Tue, Jul 01, 2003 - Page 7 News List

UN asks for US help with peacekeeping


UN Security Council members and West African leaders started trying to assemble a peace force for warring Liberia, renewing calls for the US to contribute troops.

Ambassadors from the 15-nation council were in Nigeria on Sunday, discussing that nation's possible participation in such a force. Nigeria, whose military is the region's largest and best trained, would be expected to play a key role in any peacekeeping mission in Liberia.

West Africa has said it is prepared to take the lead in solving Liberia's crisis but it would like help from the US, which has strong ties to Liberia, a West African nation founded by freed American slaves.

"It's their baby, and they have a responsibility there," Cameroon UN Ambassador Martin Chungong Ayafor said.

Washington has shown no inclination to contribute Americans for an international peace force to stand between Liberia's rebels and President Charles Taylor, an indicted UN war crimes suspect who has broken repeated peace pacts.

On Sunday, the US reiterated calls for the armed parties to honor a ceasefire agreement they signed on June 17. A US State Department spokeswoman, Amanda Batt, said the US was ready to participate in monitoring efforts.

US President George W. Bush made similar comments Thursday when he also called for Taylor to step down.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan asked the Security Council on Saturday for an international peace force for Liberia, where artillery, rockets and arms fire killed an estimated 500 trapped civilians last week as rebels battled Taylor's forces for control of the capital.

In Monrovia, Taylor toured battle-devastated western neighborhoods Sunday in a bulletproof Mercedes under guard of machine guns and rocket-launchers, driving down what had been rebels' route into the city.

Taylor thanked his rag-tag, largely unpaid fighters for their "gallantry," but ordered them to stop nighttime robberies and shooting that continue to panic the city.

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