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11 August 2003

Bush Calls Taylor Departure "Important Step" for Liberia

Powell hails peaceful, constitutional transfer of power

By Wendy Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent

Washington -- The departure August 11 of Charles Taylor from Liberia "is an important step toward a better future for the Liberian people," President Bush said August 11 in remarks in Colorado.

"The United States will work with the Liberian people and with the international community to achieve a lasting peace after more than a decade of turmoil and suffering," Bush said.

The United States, he added, "will help ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and the humanitarian relief organizations to get aid to those who need it."

Bush also said he appreciates "the efforts of many African leaders, most especially Nigerian President Obasanjo, Ghanaian President Kufour, South African President Mbeki, Mozambique President Chissano. Their continued leadership will be needed in the weeks and months ahead as a new government is formed and the Liberian people seek to chart a future of peace and stability."

Meanwhile in Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Bush administration is "very pleased at the developments we saw in Monrovia today: the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power from Charles Taylor to now President [Moses] Blah and the departure of Mr. Taylor for Nigeria."

Powell said "We hope that all of the parties to this conflict will now recognize that it is time for the conflict to end. We will be working hard to fix the cease-fire in place, working with the peacekeeping forces that have already arrived. I congratulate the Nigerian forces for the work they have been doing. In the few days that they have been there, they have accomplished a lot."

Powell said "our task group, the Iwo Jima Task Group, the Marine Expeditionary Unit, is now just offshore and visible, and I expect within the very near future the commander of the task force will be coming ashore to coordinate with the Nigerian commander, Brigadier General Okonkwo, and Ambassador Blaney and other representatives on the ground how we might be able to assist the ECOMIL forces in opening up the port of Freeport in order to facilitate the arrival and distribution of humanitarian aid and thereby allow the Nigerian and other forces that will be arriving as part of the international intervention force, assist them in making sure that the cease-fire stays in place and that routes are opened up so that humanitarian supplies can be distributed as they arrive.

"There are ships off the coast now carrying humanitarian supplies and the U.N. organizations and other international nongovernmental organizations are prepared to swing into action. And this is the time for all of the parties to commit themselves to a cease-fire, commit themselves to peace, and let us begin the task of relieving the suffering that has afflicted the Liberian people for so long."

He offered his congratulations to the ECOWAS leaders who, he said, "were in the forefront of the political transformation that we saw today."

Powell said the United States has been "in very close touch with them, on an hourly basis, as well as in very close touch with the United Nations through our conversations with Secretary General [Kofi] Annan, and we will remain in close touch and try to do everything we can to assist in the transition to an interim government and then, ultimately, to elections so that the Liberian people, in a free and open way, can decide their new leadership."

Powell made the statement on Liberia to reporters following his meeting at the State Department with Lakhdar Brahimi, Annan's special representative for Afghanistan.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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