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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Q&A: Nigeria's role in Liberia
Residents of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, are desperately waiting for some 1,300 Nigerian troops, who regional leaders have promised to send to end bitter fighting between rebels and the government. But they have not arrived.

The BBC's Newsnight programme spoke to Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, about his country's peacekeeping role.

Why is Nigeria not solving the problem in its own backyard?

Well it is in our backyard, it is our problem, but it is not our problem alone. It is in fact Africa's problem, and it is the world's problem. Anywhere in the world where there is conflict, it is the world's problem.

But the US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said it is very important that countries in the region be in the lead.

We are leading. If we are not leading we would not have suggested more than three weeks ago that we have the troops ready.

We are not there because we haven't got the capacity to do all that is necessary, and we made that clear.

When you look at the situation on the ground you see killings day by day, what does that do to you?

President Olusegun Obasanjo
Obasanjo wants more help from the US

I feel that the world should have itself to blame. Where there is any conflict in the world and people are killing in thousands, it is the responsibility of the world as a whole.

Of course the countries of the region or sub-region must feel concerned and must be in the vanguard.

You accept the responsibility, but you are not there?

We accept responsibility within the limit of our resources, and the world must know that Nigeria made a contribution to Liberia before. We spent well over $12bn, when we were in Liberia and Sierra Leone for well over 12 years.

The world did not acknowledge that, not even in terms of giving us debt relief for the contribution we made.

We know that there are 4,000 - 5,000 US troops sitting at sea off the coast. They are saying that when the West African peace force goes in, then they will be prepared to go in. What do you want them to do?

Well I like that. If your house is on fire and somebody says: 'Here I am - I have my fire engine - Now when you put your fire out on your house, I will come in.'

I wonder, what sort of help that is, with all due respect. What we are saying is that give us adequate material and logistics support and we will do the job.

Now what have we got from all these countries, up till now? When we went to Liberia before nobody gave us support. And we lost well over 1,000 Nigerians.

Now, what we are saying is we have two battalions of over 1,500 ready to go in. We cannot do that alone.

We will do it with our West African brothers and we will do it with the support and backing of Africa and the world.

Why is Nigeria willing to offer Liberian leader Charles Taylor safe haven?

Because if you do not do that for Charles Taylor, you will get what you are getting now. Charles Taylor may stay there and say he will fight to the finish, and if Charles Taylor fights to the finish, there will be no peace.

Part of the people who made this happen do not even come out early enough to put out the fire. It isn't Nigeria that set Liberia on fire, is it? Of course it is not.

It is not the West Africans that set Liberia on fire. You know who did, and those who set Liberia on fire should also join in putting the fire out.




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