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16 July 2003

Plans for Liberian Force are Progressing, Annan Says

U.N. secretary general urges deployment by end of month.

By Judy Aita
Washington File Staff Writer

United Nations -- Plans by the international community to help calm the situation in Liberia are progressing, but the deployment of a peacekeeping force may not take place before the end of July, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said July 16.

"The understanding that has emerged is that ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), the U.S., and the U.N. will play a role in Liberia," Annan told journalists as he arrived at his office.

"The current plan is that ECOWAS will send a vanguard force of 1,000 to 1,500 troops," he said. "Once they have arrived President (Charles) Taylor would leave and the U.S. and other reinforcements would move into Liberia to join the vanguard force of ECOWAS."

The secretary general said that he has asked ECOWAS and the United States to try to accelerate their deployment.

Annan said had hoped the vanguard force would be in Liberia by the end of July at the latest, but the most recent timetable he saw "seems to indicate it might be later than that."

"That is very worrying because the longer we delay the deployment, the more dangerous the situation gets," he said.

ECOWAS foresees the eventual size of the force at about 5,000 troops, he added.

For the longer term, a U.N. peacekeeping force would be established to take over operations, the secretary general said, but the size of the U.N. force would be determined by the Security Council when it authorized the force.

Annan was traveling in Africa the week of July 7 and met with President Bush and other U.S. officials in Washington July 14.

On the political side, the secretary general said, talks are going on in Accra under the leadership of former President Abdelsalami Abubakar of Nigeria. The talks, in which all the Liberian parties are participating, are working on forming a transitional government that would be in office for two years to help stabilize the situation, begin work on disarmament, and prepare for elections.

Asked if he expected Taylor to follow through and actually leave Liberia, the secretary general said that he felt the Liberian president had no other option "given the fact that he has made that commitment and he has made the commitment not only to his African peers, but to the world."

"One is expecting him to honor that commitment," Annan said. He said he expected Taylor would go to Nigeria.

(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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