Hopes for a break to the fighting in Liberia's besieged capital were on the rise on Thursday as a west African military team assessed the situation for the proposed deployment of peacekeepers, due to be discussed at a meeting of regional leaders in Ghana. West Africa's advance team Scramble to gather troops for Liberia 'Treat me right' Monrovia's civilians rally for peace
Hopes for a break to the fighting in Liberia’s besieged capital were on the rise Thursday as a west African military team assessed the situation for the proposed deployment of peacekeepers, due to be discussed at a meeting of regional leaders in Ghana.
Meanwhile the United States tabled a resolution in the UN Security Council that would authorise the deployment of a multinational peacekeeping force to halt the fighting in the country’s brutal civil war.
West African heads of state were to hold an emergency summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Thursday to review the situation ahead of sending in 3 000 peacekeeping troops from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
The evaluation team, led by Nigerian General Festus Okonkwo, is due to stay in Monrovia until Saturday, when a date for the deployment of peacekeeping troops is to be decided.
Ecowas decided on July 4 to send 3 000 peacekeepers to end the war between government forces loyal to embattled President Charles Taylor and rebels, who now control around four-fifths of the country.
But faced with the rising violence in Monrovia and a deteriorating humanitarian situation, the organisation proposed the urgent deployment of an advance contingent of 1 500 troops from Nigeria, west Africa’s military powerhouse.
“The peacekeepers should be here within days, as soon as we finish our work here, as soon as we get back we will finalise our plans,” General Okonkwo said after he flew in from Accra aboard a Ghanaian military plane.
In addition to providing a UN mandate for the Ecowas force, the resolution introduced by the United States would have the council declare itself ready to send a followup stabilisation force to Liberia to take over when the multinational force’s mandate runs out.
The council also would, according to the draft resolution, ask UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to prepare, within two weeks, a proposal for the mandate, size and structure of such a force, and to set a date for its deployment “no later than October 1.”
The draft makes no mention of the United States, either as leader or participant, in a multinational force, which, according to a diplomat privy to closed-door talks, raised questions among some Security Council delegations.
US ambassador to the UN John Negroponte said, “We are going to move as soon as possible” to a vote on the resolution.
“We are talking about providing support for Ecowas (the Economic Community of West African States) and for the UN to deal with the desperate humanitarian situation,” he told reporters. Washington has sent three warships to the area, but has so far resisted international pressure to intervene, saying it will only do so once a ceasefire is established.
Negroponte’s comments followed similar remarks by President George Bush, stressing that the United States would not take part in any peacekeeping operation unless Taylor was gone and a ceasefire was in place.
“The conditions that I laid out for the Liberian rescue mission still exists: Charles Taylor must go, a ceasefire must be in place, and we will be there to help Ecowas,” Bush said.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi discussed Liberia on Wednesday in a telephone call to Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, current president of the African Union, the Jana news agency reported in Tripoli.
“The two leaders emphasised the need to work to restore security and stability in Liberia,” Jana said, while adding that Kadhafi rejected “any foreign intervention” in the country.
On the ground in Monrovia, fighting eased somewhat Wednesday afternoon at two strategic bridges leading to the Monrovia’s city centre.
But government forces and the main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd), clashed with heavy weapons at a third bridge, Stockton Creek. - Sapa-AFP