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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 04:41 GMT 05:41 UK
Taylor calls for US peacekeepers
Liberian woman at a refugee camp visited by US military assessors
Liberia has suffered 14 years of civil war
Liberian President Charles Taylor has urged America to send peacekeeping troops to the country to avoid it descending back into war.

He told the BBC that American troops would face no danger in Liberia.

In a separate interview, the embattled president said he would not leave office until international peacekeepers were on the ground.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday that President George W Bush would be ready to make a decision on sending troops within days.

He emphasised that the role of American soldiers would be very limited in duration and scope.

The BBC's Matt Frei says the US clearly does not want its troops to get bogged down in another crisis and so West Africa will have to take the lead.

Liberia's government and the rebels have stopped fighting but the truce may collapse if troops do not arrive soon, the BBC's Paul Welsh reports from the capital, Monrovia.

West African peacekeepers are not expected for two weeks and may actually take much longer to arrive.

Safety guarantee

Charles Taylor said American troops need not fear another Somalia - where their last peacekeeping operation in Africa left many American soldiers dead.

"America owes it to Liberia..." Mr Taylor told the BBC.

As soon as [peacekeepers] get here, there should be no reason for me to tarry
Charles Taylor
"Do not be afraid about American boys getting hurt in Liberia. I can guarantee no matter where I am that Liberians will never fire a pistol at an American soldier here because we want them here, because we feel left out."

He also told the BBC that his downfall had been masterminded by the British and American governments since before he was elected.

In an interview for Reuters news agency, Mr Taylor, who has already accepted an offer of asylum in Nigeria, also made clear that his own presence in Liberia was tied to the arrival of peacekeepers.

"The ball is not in my court right now," he said.

"The ball is in the court of West Africa and the international forces. As soon as they get here, there should be no reason for me to tarry."

Bush's decision

President Bush will be ready to decide within days whether to send peacekeepers, Colin Powell told reporters.

Liberians are desperate for an end to over a decade of conflict

"I expect that over the next several days... the president will be in a position to make a decision," he told reporters covering the president's trip to Africa.

Hundreds of Liberians gathered in pounding rain at an airfield near Monrovia on Wednesday to greet the US military team now assessing the situation on the ground.

The crowd of mostly women and children chanted "we want peace" as the team arrived.

The Americans were tasked with visiting the airfield, the port and Monrovia's main hospital.

Meanwhile, a United Nations agency has warned that thousands of displaced people, living in camps around Monrovia, will soon face starvation unless supplies can reach them.

World Food Programme spokesman Arnold Vercken says it has trucks ready to take them food but that it is too dangerous to make the deliveries.

The BBC's Paul Welsh in Monrovia
"Without an intervention force the ceasefire might break down again"

Charles Taylor, Liberian President
"We've worked with America, they owe it to us"


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