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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Fighting flares in Liberia
Fresh fighting has erupted between rebels and government troops in northern Liberia, the Liberian defence ministry says.

A ministry statement said rebels had burned down the town of Kpatazu in Lofa County on the border with Guinea.


Dissident forces burned down the entire town

Liberian defence ministry
Officials said the two sides were fighting for control of the town and that clashes had also broken out in the town of Kolahun.

The reports of renewed violence come as ministers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone prepare to meet to discuss ways of curbing armed groups active in the region.

"Our troops are presently engaged in a series of running battles with dissident forces and are thwarting any further advance into other parts of Lofa County," the statement said.

The ministry did not say when the clashes broke out and there has been no independent confirmation of the fighting.

Town 'recaptured'

Liberian troops have been fighting rebels in the north of the country for more than two years.

Liberian refugees
Thousands of refugees have fled the fighting in northern Liberia
The Liberian Government of President Charles Taylor said in June it had repelled rebels from the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) movement from the north but fighting has continued.

The government recently said it had recaptured strategically important Kolahun from LURD fighters.

Last week, LURD said its members had taken over the whole of Lofa County and advanced further north-west into Grand Cape Mount and Bomi counties.

More than 60,000 civilians have fled northern Liberia since fighting intensified last September, according to Liberian officials.

Talks

The Sierra Leone Government, which is hosting the meeting of foreign ministers, said it was determined to revive a non-aggression pact between the three states.

Over the past decade Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have backed each others dissidents to try to wrest control of the diamond rich area that straddles their borders.

But the United Nations blames Liberia for most of the trouble, and has imposed sanctions against it.

See also:

12 Apr 01 | Africa
West Africa crisis talks planned
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