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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Liberian leader 'should step down'
President Charles Taylor
UNHCR chief wants Charles Taylor to quit

The head of the United Nations refugee agency, Ruud Lubbers, has ended a tour of West Africa by appealing for the Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, to step down.

In what correspondents describe as unusually blunt remarks, Mr Lubbers said the Liberian president was the source and very embodiment of the region's problems.

He said the cycles of ethnic violence in Western Africa would not stop until a UN peacekeeping force was sent to Liberia.

Liberia's internal conflicts have displaced one million people inside the country, and sent 300,000 fleeing to neighbouring nations.

The UN has already applied sanctions to President Taylor's administration for human rights abuses, gun running and other trafficking with militias in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone.

Mr Lubbers also said the United States had a particular responsibility towards Liberia since the country was founded by freed North American slaves who had returned to Africa.


Mr Lubbers said that the world had acted against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic .

"If you're serious about democracy in the rest of the world, then you should be serious about democracy in West Africa as well", the UN refugee chief said.

Meanwhile, reports from north-eastern Liberia say heavy cross-border firing has broken out between Liberian and Guinean forces.

Witnesses in the border town of Ganta said Guinean troops were fighting alongside rebels of the group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd).

A Liberian army medic, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Guinean troops shelled Ganta over the weekend, killing at least 50 Liberian troops.

Liberian Defence Minister Daniel Chea said the government had confirmed intervention by Guinean forces.

Guinea has repeatedly denied backing Liberia's rebels.

Country profile: Liberia
29 Apr 03  |  Country profiles
Guinea 'arms Liberian rebels'
06 May 03  |  Business
Liberian refugees feared drowned
01 Apr 03  |  Africa

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