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Aid Agencies Warn of Humanitarian Disaster in Liberia

Voice of America

VOA News
13 Jun 2003, 19:14 UTC

International aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian disaster in war-torn Liberia, as peace talks continue between the government and rebels. A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization told reporters Friday, in Geneva that thousands of people are stuck in communal shelters in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, with little food or medical care.

Another U.N. agency, The World Food Program, said it is worried Monrovia will be unable to cope with the influx of displaced people who fled fighting on the outskirts of the city earlier this week. A spokeswoman for the U.N. agency said she hopes a lull in the fighting between President Charles Taylor's forces and rebels will allow aid agencies to resume distributing food.

Rebels fighting Mr. Taylor's rule have for now stopped their advance on the capital, and both sides have agreed in principle to a cease-fire. Representatives from both parties met for a second day Friday in Akosombo, Ghana, in hopes of formalizing the agreement. A key mediator in the talks, Mohamad Ibn Chambas, told VOA the ceasefire accord is likely to be signed Saturday.

Liberia's health minister said as many as 400 people have died in recent clashes between rebel troops and forces loyal to the president. Rebels are calling for President Taylor to resign. Mr. Taylor has said he would step down if it will bring peace to the country. But, observers say he is unlikely to honor the promise after the U.N. backed Special Court for neighboring Sierra Leone last week issued an indictment against him. The court accuses him of sponsoring rebel groups that committed atrocities during Sierra Leone's 10-year civil war.

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