Thu, Aug 21, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Warring factions to decide on leader

REUTERS , ACCRA

Liberia's warring factions were expected to sit down together yesterday to choose the leader of a two-year transition government to end 14 years of bloodshed, officials said.

President Moses Blah's government and two rebel groups must choose from three candidates shortlisted on Tuesday by political parties and other interest groups meeting in nearby Ghana.

Due to take power in mid-October, the new government will face the task of reuniting a country divided by civil war for most of the time since Charles Taylor launched a rebellion in late 1989. Blah took power when Taylor left for exile last week.

The choice is between former UN official and open Taylor opponent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Rudolph Sherman, who heads a coalition regarded as broadly sympathetic to Taylor, and Monrovia businessman Jyude Bryant of the Liberia Action Party.

Taylor's departure paved the way for rebels to hand over control of parts of Liberia's capital Monrovia to a regional peacekeeping force backed by US Marines and aircraft.

But with some armed rebels still around, security is still a huge concern to aid agencies desperately trying to get emergency supplies in through the devastated port to help hundreds of thousands of people left destitute by the war.

The UN World Food Program says at least half a million people need food aid and the European Commission is proposing a 50-million-euro (US$55 million) aid package.

Some of that would fund a West African peacekeeping mission that currently has 1,500 Nigerian troops in Monrovia but should soon double in size and get a UN mandate.

Outside the capital, the humanitarian and security situation is even worse.

Government and rebel officials said their forces had clashed on Monday and Tuesday in central Liberia.

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