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Nigeria warns US over Taylor 'bounty'
( 2003-11-10 10:14) (Agencies)

Nigerian officials warned the United States on Sunday not to try to capture ousted Liberian leader Charles Taylor, thought to be the target of $2 million bounty posted by the United States.

Taylor, a former warlord who was behind 14 years of bloodshed in Liberia, faces war crime charges for sponsoring a vicious 10-year civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone.

Besieged by rebels, he resigned under international pressure in August after Nigeria offered him exile in exchange for a pledge to allow a peaceful handover of power in Liberia.

Taylor now lives in the Nigerian jungle city of Calabar, where he, his family and aides occupy several mansions paid for by the Nigerian government.

President Olusegun Obasanjo's spokeswoman, Remi Oyo, said Nigeria "would not be harassed by anyone" into handing over Taylor to a U.N.-backed war crimes court in Sierra Leone.

"Neither do we expect any country to violate our sovereignty" by attempting to capture Taylor, she said. "That would not be the act of a friendly nation."

The reward is part of a $87 billion military funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan signed into law by President Bush on Thursday. The legislation doesn't mention Taylor by name, referring to the bounty only as incentive for the capture of an unnamed person indicted by the court in Sierra Leone.

Police have stepped up security around Taylor's mansion, a senior officer said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity. Oyo said Taylor "is very well secured" and Nigeria would protect him as long as he stays out of trouble and doesn't meddle in Liberian or Nigerian politics.

When asked if the Liberian was keeping his side of the bargain, Oyo said: "We would like to think so, yes."

Taylor has been restricted from speaking to the media while in Nigeria. One of his close associates said Friday the ex-Liberian leader fears bloodshed if bounty hunters attempt to capture him.

The United States and a number of African and European leaders had pressed Taylor to step down, seeing him as a prime cause of instability in West Africa.

With varying degrees of reluctance, international leaders privately agreed to the asylum offer from Nigeria, seeing it as the best way to remove Taylor and end the bloodletting.

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