Tuesday, December 29, 1998 Published at 10:17 GMT
Extra troops to defend Sierra Leone
Lansana Kouyate (centre) - called for more troops for Ecomog
West African nations are sending reinforcements to Sierra Leone to suport the elected government of President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah.
The additional troops were requested on Monday at the end of a regional summit in Abidjan by Lansana Kouyate, general secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
"We have sent some men and officers to help beef up what is already on the ground," said an unnamed senior Ghanaian defence ministry official.
Some 500 soldiers from Mali and Gambia are also expected within days, and other West African nations have also pledged troops.
About half of the Ecomog troops are now stationed in Freetown, following recent advances of the rebels. The intervention forces have been forced to retreat from the key northern town of Makeni in the face of a sustained rebel offensive.
But the BBC West Africa correspondent says that while the pull-out is a blow for the government, the president will be heartened by support from West Africa foreign ministers who also condemned Liberia for backing the rebels.
Residents flee Makeni
Delegates at the Abidjan meeting included key West African foreign ministers, a UN special representative and the ambassadors of the two western powers most influential in Freetown, the UK and the US.
He also alleged that the rebels were supported by mercenaries recruited in Liberia, Burkina Faso and the Ukraine.
"We have strong evidence that Liberia is helping the rebels and they have also hired these foreign mercenaries," he said.
Although the rebels were not invited to the meeting, Mr Kouyate stressed that Ecowas was also trying to open dialogue.
President Kabbah's government had already offered to negotiate with the rebels and proposed an amnesty for their troops if they lay down their arms.
The rebels have rejected the offer and vowed to storm the capital unless Mr Kabbah resigns.