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Sunday, 15 September, 2002, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Liberian rebels scorn 'end of emergency'
Liberian President Charles Taylor
Taylor says the rebels threat is all but broken
Rebels in Liberia have dismissed as a "mockery" President Charles Taylor's lifting of the state of emergency and ruled out peace talks with him.

The head of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd), Sekou Damate Conneh, told the BBC that Mr Taylor continued to kill Liberians and the removal of the emergency measures would make no difference.


We want Taylor out of each area and a ceasefire without any conditions

Sekou Damate Conneh

He also denied the government's assertion that rebel forces had been all but crushed, saying they were still in control in many areas northeast of the capital, Monrovia.

President Taylor announced on Saturday that the lifting of restrictions, which includes an end to a ban on political rallies, would pave the way for national reconciliation before next year's elections.

'Not sincere'

The Lurd leader said his forces were not prepared to negotiate with Mr Taylor because he was not to be trusted.

"We want Taylor out of each area and a ceasefire without any conditions" he said.

Liberian troops
Territory has repeatedly changed hands during the war
"He is not sincere and he does not respect the international community."

The Lurd leader called on the international community to put pressure on President Taylor to resign as there could be no peace until he left office.

He said that his forces were close to Monrovia, being "in Voinjama and taking control of Bopolu", and were advancing on Gbarnga - a former stronghold of Mr Taylor which has changed hands before during the civil war.

Mr Taylor's forces announced the recapture of Bopolu only on Friday.

UN sanctions review

The state of emergency was imposed by the president eight months earlier after the Lurd began threatening the capital.

He was accused of over-reacting when he introduced it, using the rebel threat as a pretext to suppress political opposition.

Liberian opposition leader Rudolph Sherman
The official opposition welcomed the relaxing of the emergency
Mr Taylor said he had taken the decision because of the reduced danger from rebels, announcing that all rebel-held areas except Voinjama had been recaptured.

The conflict has led tens of thousands to seek refuge at camps within Liberia, while many others have fled abroad.

Forces loyal to President Taylor have been fighting rebel factions in the north of the country since 1999.

Government ministers have complained that the army is fighting an unfair war because of an international ban on selling weapons to the Liberian Government.

Correspondents say the timing of President Taylor's announcement could be linked to plans for a high-powered meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The meeting will discuss international sanctions imposed on Liberia since May last year because of alleged gun-running to Sierra Leone rebels.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
David Koti, opposition politician on Network Africa
"I think it is a good idea"
News, analysis and background from Liberia's conflict and escalating refugee crisis

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