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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

LIBERIA: Peacekeepers reach Tapeta and Tubmanburg

MONROVIA, 5 January 2004 (IRIN) - The UN peacekeeping force in Liberia extended its deployment to the rebel-held towns of Tubmanburg and Tapeta at the weekend. A UN spokesman said on Monday that the blue helmets would soon reach Zwedru near the eastern border with Cote d'Ivoire.

Patrick Coker, a spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Liberia, said that on Saturday 250 Ethiopian troops took up station in Tapeta, a town controlled by the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) rebel group, just 35 km from the eastern frontier with Cote d'Ivoire.

On the same day, Pakistani troops moved into Tubmanburg, the military headquarters of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebel group, 60 km northwest of the capital Monrovia.

LURD prevented the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) from deploying Pakistani troops to Tubmanburg on 25 December, but they were allowed to establish a position at Kley Junction, 15 km from the town, two days later.

The recent arrival of troop reinforcements has allowed UNMIL to begin moving out of Monrovia to take over security in the rest of Liberia. Over the past week, the peacekeeping force has also established bases in the MODEL-held port city of Buchanan and the LURD stronghold of Gbarnga on the main road to the northern frontier with Guinea. UNMIL is due to reach its full strength of 15,000 men by March.

Coker told IRIN on Monday: "All these deployments witnessed the full cooperation of all parties, particularly the leaderships of the forces, and the peacekeepers were well-received",

Asked where UNMIL would go next, he replied: "UN peacekeepers are looking into extending into Zwedru very soon".

Zwedru is the provincial headquarters of Grand Gedeh County in the southeast of Liberia close to the border with Cote d'Ivoire. It is also the headquarters of MODEL.

UNMIL is due to relaunch a programme to disarm and demobilise all three warring factions in Liberia on 20 January under the terms of a peace agreement signed in August that ended 14 years of civil war.

It began disarming forces loyal to former president Charles Taylor in Monrovia in early December, but was forced to abandon the drive after fighters rioted to demand money up front for handing in their guns. UNMIL found itself with insufficient forces to control the disarmament process properly, even though, by the time it was suspended on 17 December, more than 10,000 former combatants had surrendered their weapons.


Themes: (IRIN) Conflict




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