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Liberia: UN relief agencies work in 'chaotic' security situation to gain ground

13 June As the various factions involved in the ceasefire negotiations for Liberia prepare for their first face-to-face meeting today in Ghana, United Nations agencies inside the country hope to use the respite in the fighting to gain some ground against a "chaotic" humanitarian and security situation in and around the capital Monrovia.

The peace talks in Akosambo, Ghana, have been arranged by the Special Mediator of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, following several bilateral meetings with the various delegations - chiefly the Liberian Government, the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL), and the 18 political parties represented.

According to a UN spokesman in New York, the parties are expected to iron out their differences on the draft ceasefire agreement. The UN presence at the talks is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Representative for Liberia, Abou Moussa.

On the humanitarian front, meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said that if security conditions permit, the resumption of food distributions to refugees and internally-displaced people in camps near Monrovia could be done soon by a team of nine national staff with the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it remained extremely concerned about the "chaotic and dangerous security situation" and its humanitarian impact. The agency said that groups of refugees arriving in the Liberian capital after fleeing their conflict-hit camps bring reports of widespread violence, intimidation and extortion during and after the recent fighting. Local NGOs and international agencies are providing water and medicine to the refugees gathered around their offices in Monrovia. The agency itself is working with authorities to register the refugees and find ways to jump start food distribution.

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