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 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 16:06 GMT
US condemns Liberia election plans
Liberia troops
The army has failed to end a rebellion in the north
A United States official had said that Liberia is not ready to organise the general elections it has announced for October.

The United States wants to see a free and fair election and will not support, nor recognise, the results of any fraudulent one

US ambassador John William Blaney
The US ambassador in Monrovia, John William Blaney, cited the harassment of members of the opposition and restrictions on presidential candidates.

The chairman of the electoral commission, Paul Guah, announced on Thursday that presidential and parliamentary elections would be held on 14 October.

Incumbent President Charles Taylor has said he will stand for a second term. He led a seven-year rebellion which ended with his election in 1997.

'No foreign supervision'

Mr Blaney said Washington was concerned that "preparations for the 2003 elections were inadequate, and that necessary conditions do not yet exist to permit free and fair elections".

"Let me say that the United States wants to see a free and fair election and will not support, nor recognise, the results of any fraudulent one," he said.

ELECTION TIMETABLE
April: voter registration
June: list of candidates published
20 June-13 October: campaign
14 October: elections

The ambassador also urged Liberia to involve the United Nations in the process.

Mr Guah said on Thursday that the electoral commission would not allow the international community to monitor the elections.

"No foreign laws shall prevail in the electoral process, and there shall be no foreign supervision," he said.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says that President Taylor is also opposed to the presence of foreign observers during the polls.

He has only asked the UN to send a unit of peacekeepers from neighbouring Sierra Leone to Liberia to help guarantee security at the time of the elections.

Kenyan model

An opposition leader who challenged Charles Taylor in 1997, Helen Johnson-Sirleaf, has also voiced concern at the prospect of unmonitored elections.

"The conditions for a level playing field do not exist, and by barring foreign supervision, it is clear he is setting the stage for fraud," she said from Abidjan, where she lives in exile.

President of Liberia Charles Taylor
Taylor faces sanctions and security problems

Ms Johnson-Sirleaf said the Liberian opposition was trying to forge a "winning team like in Kenya", and she would "be a part of that".

Meanwhile, another opposition leader, Martin Sheriff, has urged the electoral commission to scrap an article in the constitution which requires presidential candidates to reside in the country 10 years before the elections.

If the constitution is not amended, many opposition presidential candidates could be disqualified.

President Taylor has said that a rebel war in northern Liberia will not stop him from holding elections.

His regime is currently under UN sanctions imposed for its perceived support of former rebels in Sierra Leone who waged a war until January 2002.

Mr Taylor has denied arming and training the rebels in return for diamonds.

News, analysis and background from Liberia's conflict and escalating refugee crisis

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31 Dec 02 | Africa
14 Sep 02 | Africa
19 Nov 02 | Africa
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