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US withdrawl in Liberia worries some
( 2003-08-28 09:47) (Agencies)

West African nations expressed "considerable anxiety" Wednesday at the U.S. decision to withdraw 150 Marines from Monrovia, saying international assistance is crucial to restore peace to the war-ravaged country.

Government soldiers drive through the countryside close to Kakata, LIberia, 150 kms from Monrovia, Aug 27, 2003. Fighting has been reported in the area. Hundreds of displaced people made there way toward Kakata and other town's to avoid being trapped up in the fighting.  [AP]
Four West African foreign ministers whose countries are in the forefront of efforts to end the war met with the U.N. Security Council, which welcomed the Aug. 18 peace agreement aimed at ending 14 years of conflict that has claimed more than 150,000 lives.

The council urged government forces and rebel groups to fully implement the accord, which requires disarming combatants and installing a transitional government.

"Peace is gradually returning to Liberia as the guns begin to fall silent," said Ghana's Foreign Minister Nana Akufo Addo, whose country chairs the Economic Community of West African States known as ECOWAS.

But he warned that prospects for peace depend on the adherence of the combatants to the cease-fire.

Addo commended Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo for sending two battalions to help stabilize the country and offering exile to former president Charles Taylor whose ouster was the key rebel demand.

He also praised President Bush for sending three warships to Liberia and putting 150 U.S. Marines ashore in Monrovia for 11 days.

"It is for this reason that we view with considerable anxiety the recent measures by the United States government, including the withdrawal offshore of the marines in Liberia, and yesterday's statement that the United States government will pull out of direct involvement in the resolution of the Liberian crisis on Oct.1 when the U.N. peacekeeping operation is scheduled to begin," Addo told the council.

The withdrawal of the Marines on Sunday left about 100 U.S. troops still on the ground 70 guarding the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, and 30 working with the Nigerian-led West African peace force.

Richard Grenell, spokesman for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, said the Marines returned to their ships "in order to put them in a better position to deploy elsewhere in Liberia if necessary."

Addo said the 1,696-member West African force will reach its full strength of 3,500 soldiers by Sept. 4. ECOWAS expects those 3,500 soldiers to put on the light blue hats of U.N. peacekeepers on Oct. 1 and become the vanguard of the U.N. peacekeeping force, he said.

Top U.N. envoy for Liberia, Jacques Klein, has called for a U.N. force of 15,000 troops, but it will take many months to reach that level.

 
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