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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Tuesday 3 May 2005

WEST AFRICA: Taylor will continue to destabilise region until he's tried for war crimes, US Prosecutor

DAKAR, 3 May 2005 (IRIN) - Exiled Liberian president, Charles Taylor, will remain a threat to President Lansana Conte of Guinea and the entire West Africa region until he is brought before the UN-backed Special Court for war crimes in Sierra Leone, said the Court's chief prosecutor David Crane.

"In early January, Charles Taylor ordered the assassination of Guinean President Lansana Conte as revenge for Conte's support of the LURD rebel faction in Liberia ...and... the effort [to kill Conte] would soon be repeated," said Crane in a statement issued on Monday.

Taylor stepped down as president of Liberia in August 2003, as rebel fighters from the main rebel group, the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) beat a path to the capital Monrovia.

Sensing another bloody siege on the beleaguered ocean capital, the US led intense international pressure for Taylor to step down and take exile in Nigeria.

But according to Crane, Taylor remains a threat to security across West Africa from his luxurious high security mansion in Calabar southeast Nigeria.

"From exile, Charles Taylor remains in contact with his political network in Liberia on a day-to-day basis. He has also mobilised his network of warlords and cronies to keep West Africa in turmoil," the former lawyer with the US Department of Defence said.

"Taylor will remain a menace to West Africa until he is turned over for trial to the Special Court for Sierra Leone," Crane added.

Crane's statement has saved the Guinean government a great deal of embarrassment. Investigations by the government security forces into the 19 January assassination attempt have been fruitless, leading to calls from the opposition that it was a hoax.

Unidentified armed men fired several shots at Conte's car as it drove through the outskirts of the Guinean capital Conakry. The 71-year old president who has ruled Guinea for the past 21 years escaped unharmed but one of his bodyguards was seriously injured in the incident.

The American prosecutor, who has repeatedly called for Taylor to stand trial for war crimes in Sierra Leone, said that he had multiple sources to back up his allegations.

As president of Liberia, Taylor was the main backer of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel movement, supplying them with arms in return for diamonds.

Though Taylor has been indicted - along with 11 others - by the court he has so far been protected from its jurisdiction. President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria has repeatedly said that his country would not hand over Taylor to the Special Court unless the Liberian government request it.

Crane's accusations come four days after eight American senators asked US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to bring Taylor to justice.

At the end of February, the European parliament also adopted a resolution calling on the European Union and its member states to do their utmost to persuade Nigeria to hand over the former Liberian leader.

"Charles Taylor is giving new truth to the old saying that there can be no peace without justice," Crane said.


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