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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 16:39 GMT
Liberia breaks arms embargo
Liberian refugees
Thousands have fled the latest fighting
Liberian President Charles Taylor has disclosed that his country is importing weapons in defiance of a United Nations ban.

Mr Taylor said Liberia needed the weapons to defend itself against the rebels - and he said the UN had been duly notified.

Liberia is under a UN arms embargo after being accused of supporting the former rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone

Mr Taylor made the remarks on a visit to a camp for displaced people near the capital, Monrovia, that was attacked by Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rebels on Tuesday.

The president also accused the United States of indirectly supporting the rebels.

He said the United States had given money to help train the Guinean army, which he said was backing Lurd.

Monrovia fear

News of the Lurd advance to a camp within 10km of the capital caused some panic, and security in the capital was increased.

BBC reporter Jonathan Paye-Layleh, who visited the camp at Ricks Institute, was told by residents that the rebels press-ganged hundreds of men and women into carrying looted goods on their behalf.

Several people were killed there, say the government.

The Liberian Government says its forces are pursuing the Lurd rebels to the west of the capital.

Sounds of artillery caused panic for residents on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. "Some of the sounds you hear are from a government counter-offensive," said Defence Minister Daniel Chea.

"We are fighting back."

Gbarnga

In a new development early on Thursday, Liberian rebels operating in the Ivory Coast slipped across the border and attacked the Liberian south-eastern provincial town of Zwedru, according to Mr Chea.

The rebels have opened several battlefronts, including the central town of Gbarnga, where fierce fighting has been going on since the rebels captured the town last Friday.

Our correspondent says up to 30,000 people have been displaced by the fighting there, with most of them arriving by foot at camps in the highway town of Totota, some 40 km to the south-east.

Scores of people are believed to have died in the fighting.

Lurd rebels have been fighting a three-year armed campaign against President Charles Taylor.

On Wednesday, the United States renewed an existing warning for US citizens to avoid all travel to Liberia, citing a further deterioration of the security situation there.


WATCH AND LISTEN
President Charles Taylor on Network Africa
"The US should stop their military assistance to Guinea"



SEE ALSO:
Rebel 'massacres' in Liberia
07 Feb 03 |  Africa
Timeline: Liberia
04 Mar 03 |  Country profiles


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