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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 12:21 GMT
Liberia 'struggling to defeat' rebels
Liberia troops
The Liberian army says it is poorly equipped
Liberia's defence minister has said that the government army is fighting an unfair war against rebels in the north of the country.

Daniel Chea said that his forces are unable to get new military supplies because of an international ban on selling weapons to the Liberian Government.

We have to make do with what we can lay our hands on

Daniel Chea
Defence Minister
The international ban was imposed because Liberia was accused of selling diamonds on behalf of the rebel movement in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Last week, the rebels briefly captured a village just 80km from the Liberian capital Monrovia, causing thousands of refugees to flee.

The BBC's Sam Howard in Monrovia says that many Liberians will be shocked by this admission.

No split

"We have to make do with what we can lay our hands on from captured weapons, whereby the dissidents have overwhelming external support," said Mr Chea.

Liberia has repeatedly accused neighbouring Guinea of backing the the rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy.

The defence minister said that if the arms embargo was lifted, the army could defeat the rebels within a month.

The government said in January that the sanctions should be lifted because the war in Sierra Leone has officially been declared over.

Going home

The thousands of people who fled the northern towns of Sawmill and Tubmanburg last week are now starting to return.

Sawmill was captured by rebel fighters but government troops retook it soon afterwards.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh says that aid agencies are unable to reach Tubmanburg because of the lack of security.

He says that the sick are forced to travel to Klay, 20km away, to seek medical treatment.

Tubmanburg mayor Gbeley Karnley said that civilians and government soldiers had looted goods belonging to the fleeing refugees.

The military authorities in the town have warned that any soldiers found guilty of looting will be punished.

See also:

29 Jan 02 | Africa
Fighting nears Liberia capital
30 Oct 01 | Africa
Liberia denies busting sanctions
04 May 01 | Africa
UN imposes sanctions on Liberia
15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
12 Feb 01 | Africa
Timeline: Liberia
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Liberia
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