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US Condemns Liberian Rebel Group For Renewed Fighting in Capital
VOA News
22 Jul 2003, 21:08 UTC

The United States has condemned the main Liberian rebel group for the renewed fighting in the capital, Monrovia, where scores of people are reported killed.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Tuesday that Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, commonly known as LURD, is responsible for the current fighting in Monrovia. He said the Bush administration has called on LURD leader Sekou Conneh to immediately halt the offensive. Mr. Boucher warned that the rebel group needs to keep its commitment to the ceasefire if it wants to participate in the future of Liberia.

Mr. Boucher also said the United States is consulting with the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS on the group's plan to deploy a peacekeeping force in Liberia. The Liberian rebels say they have ordered their forces to stop fighting in Monrovia.

A top rebel negotiator, Kabineh Ja'neh, attending peace talks in Ghana told reporters Tuesday that fighters with LURD have been instructed to halt their four-day offensive. It is not clear what impact the order will have on the peace talks.

The call to stop the deadly onslaught came one day after a barrage of shells rained down on the city, in what is believed to have been the bloodiest fighting in two months between government troops and rebels trying to oust President Charles Taylor.

In Senegal Tuesday, West African military chiefs began meeting to discuss deploying international peacekeepers. The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has pledged to send an initial contingent of 15-hundred troops, with a larger force to follow. Fierce fighting raged for a fourth day on the northern side of the capital Tuesday. Rebels tried again to take control of two bridges leading from the port into the city center, but government soldiers held them off.

Scores of people were killed in the shelling Monday. The American embassy complex and the VOA affiliate Radio Veritas, the only independent radio station in Liberia, were among the places hit by mortar fire.

Liberia's defense minister says more than 600 civilians have died in the crossfire in the past few days, but aid workers put the death toll at 100 or less.

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