The United States is coming under increasing international pressure to intervene in the fierce fighting in Liberia. The US has long historical and cultural ties with the West African nation but, over the years, it has become increasingly disengaged from it.
By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News Online
In the early 1820s, hundreds of freed US slaves were sent to coastal Africa by anti-slavery societies.
A rebel offensive in Monrovia seems to have ended hopes of a swift peace
When, in 1847, they founded the continent's oldest republic, they gave it a constitution and a flag modelled after the country they had come from.
But, despite its strong association with the US, Liberia does not have a conventional colonial history.
It was never ruled from Washington in the same way as most other African countries were ruled by colonial powers - such as Ghana from London and Ivory Coast from Paris.
For most of the country's history, Liberian-Americans, descendents of the freed slaves, ruled the country.
While the country's name means "Liberty" and its coat of arms reads "The love of liberty brought us here" the Liberian-Americans were accused of discriminating against the nation's indigenous people.
Liberia was for a long time economically and strategically important to the United States.
In the early part of last century, the US relied on one of its natural resources, rubber, to compete with Britain in the rapidly growing automobile industry.
This natural source of latex rubber was also vital to the allies during World War II.
During the Cold War years Liberia was viewed by the US as an ideal post to fight the spread of communism through Africa.
A mutual defence pact was signed and the US established a massive air base and built communications facilities to handle intelligence traffic and relay a Voice of America signal throughout the continent.
But, when the Cold War came to an end, US political interests faded.
Now, America is coming under increasing pressure to turn its attention again to Liberia, particularly from the UK, which has suggested the US lead a military mission to the country.
Alex Vine, head of the Africa Programme at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, says there is a split within the US administration over proposed intervention.
"The State Department and Pentagon favour action but the White House hasn't been so keen. Last year, defence officials carried out a feasibility study to see if the US would be able to provide assistance."
He says that what could emerge is a "surprising alliance" between the US, UK and France. France has already helped out by airlifting US nationals out of Liberia.
Monrovia residents are becoming accustomed to fleeing their homes
"But, if it happens, it will happen soon, to coincide with President George Bush's trip to Africa in early July," says Mr Vine.
The UK and France have both recently intervened in African conflicts. The British took the lead in corralling international intervention for Sierra Leone, its former colony several years ago, and France recently sent troops to help stabilise the Ivory Coast.
The US, however, has been reluctant to endorse peacekeeping missions in Africa because of its disastrous 1993 mission in Somalia.
On Thursday, Britain's UN ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who is taking part in a high-level UN Security Council delegation to West Africa, described the US as "the nation that everyone would think would be the natural candidate" because of its historical ties.
Liberia is full of symbols that commemorate its historic links to the US. The capital Monrovia was named after US President James Monroe.
Another major city honours President James Buchanan. And Harper, the capital of Maryland County, is named after congressman Robert Goodloe Harper who invented the name Liberia.
Some Liberians look to the US as their mother country, others argue that an obsession with American culture has meant that many Liberians are lost between being a Liberian and being an American.
But all Liberians want an end to the years of bloody civil war and many believe the US is best-placed to achieve this.