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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 02:27 GMT
Liberian president denies rebel threat
Thousands of refugees are heading to Monrovia
Liberian President Charles Taylor has denied that the capital, Monrovia, is under threat from advancing rebel forces.

Thousands of civilians have sought refuge in Monrovia since the opposition Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) movement attacked the town of Klay, just 35km (22 miles) away two days ago.

Nobody should think that he can come and run Charles Taylor out of here

Charles Taylor, Liberian president
President Taylor said government forces had retaken the town, but rebel leaders maintain they still hold the district.

A BBC correspondent who visited Klay said it was deserted except for government soldiers burying dead civilians.

Rebels said they would attack Monrovia within a week if Mr Taylor did not step down, Reuters news agency reported.

The president, however, remained defiant.

"We are here to stay. Nobody should think that he can come and run Charles Taylor out of here," he told reporters on Saturday.

"Nobody will run me out of this town."

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea said troops were pushing the rebels back.

"There is fighting still going on and we are pursuing them back to Bopolu, where they came from," he said.

LURD says it has been using Bopolu, 85km (45 miles) north of Monrovia as a base.

The government says its ability to fight the rebels effectively is being hampered by a United Nations weapons embargo imposed on Liberia to curb diamonds-for-arms trading with rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Aid groups say tens of thousands of civilians have fled the fighting but government forces have stopped many from entering the capital.

President of Liberia Charles Taylor
Taylor declared a state of emergency

"A large number of those fleeing are at a total loss... without any help," said humanitarian organisation Action Against Hunger.

President Taylor declared a state of emergency on Friday after fighting spread from northern Liberia to other parts of the country.

The conflict between the government and LURD has been raging since July, 2000, after a lull in fighting since the last civil war ended in 1997.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"The attackers have melted back into the forest"
See also:

29 Jan 02 | Africa
Fighting nears Liberia capital
12 Feb 01 | Africa
Timeline: Liberia
10 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Liberia
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