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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

LIBERIA: Discussions on UNMIL troop contributions going on

MONROVIA, 29 September 2003 (IRIN) - The United Nations is discussing possible troops contributions to its 15,000-strong mission to Liberia (to be known as UNMIL) and will absorb the 3,500 West African troops currently deployed in the country as a startup force, a spokesman said.

Several countries including Ethiopia, Namibia and South Africa had expressed their willingness to send troops to Liberia to join the UN force, Margaret Novicki told IRIN on Monday.

UNMIL was approved by the UN Security Council on 19 September to replace a much smaller West African force (ECOMIL) from 1 October. The ECOMIL forces who are being absorbed into UNMIL will be re-hatted on Wednesday.

"Apart from the West African troops currently serving in Liberia and Bangladesh forces, there is no official commitment from any country on sending troops to Liberia yet," Novicki said. "There are ongoing negotiations between the UN and some countries."

On Sunday UNMIL said in a statement: "The re-hatted West African troops will be joined within two weeks by a battalion from Bangladesh as UNMIL steadily increases its strength over the coming months."

The West African peacekeepers are from Benin, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. They have been deployed in the capital, Monrovia and other parts of northern Liberia including Bong and Margibi counties.

The troops arrived in Liberia on 4 August as a vanguard force to stabilize Monrovia as skirmishes intensified between government fighters and rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) in June and July in the city's outskirts.

Meanwhile, the LURD on Monday agreed on the deployment of Liberian government police in Monrovia's western suburbs of Bushrod Island along with unarmed LURD fighters.

There has been no police presence in that part of Monrovia since July.

The decision to jointly deploy police and LURD fighters was reached at a meeting between the two groups and chaired by the West African peacekeepers (ECOMIL).

Police Director Paul Mulbah told reporters: "Beginning Friday, the police will be deployed on the Island and there will be some LURD fighters assigned with the police officers in that regard".

Amidst the deployment of West African peacekeepers on the Island unarmed LURD fighters still continue to roam in the area riding looted and battered vehicles. There have been reports that they harass those perceived as supporters and fighters loyal to former Liberian leader Charles Taylor now in exiled in Nigeria.

The LURD failed to withdraw from the Island despite their agreement in August to retreat to the Po River some 17 km west of Monrovia, which was set as a buffer between government forces and them.

That agreement, which was brokered by the US ambassador to Liberia, John Blaney, and the West African peacekeepers, was to have allowed a rapid resumption of humanitarian aid to desperate people in western Monrovia.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict




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