SLUG: 2-305690 Liberia / Fighting (L Update)
TITLE=LIBERIA / FIGHTING (L UPDATE)
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INTRO: Liberian rebel leaders say they have ordered their forces to stop their offensive on the Liberian capital, Monrovia. The call came from Ghana, where the rebel leaders are meeting for talks to end the fighting in Liberia. Sarah Simpson has more on the story from V-O-A's west Africa bureau in Abidjan.
TEXT: A rebel negotiator at the peace talks in Ghana told reporters that rebels in Monrovia have been instructed to halt their four-day offensive.
Liberia's defense minister says at least 600 civilians have been killed in the latest fighting between government troops and the rebels, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. The rebels are trying to oust President Charles Taylor.
A spokesman for the rebels is blaming the casualties on President Taylor's forces. The rebel spokesman accused them of trying to create confusion to arouse foreign governments' anger against LURD.
The United States and other governments have made repeated calls to stop the fighting in Liberia. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Bush administration condemned the latest round of cease fire violations and urged all sides to immediately cease all military activity and focus on the peace talks in Ghana.
Though the rebel leaders' call for a halt in the rebel offensive will be welcomed by the international community, observers say hopes of their cease-fire order becoming a reality are slim. They say that over the past few days, the rebel leaders have repeatedly delivered orders that have not been heeded by fighters on the ground. (SIGNED)
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