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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
New hope for weary Liberians
Nigeria's Brigadier General Festus Okonkwo salutes US Ambassador John Blaney
The Ecowas-led fact-finding mission includes US and UK officers
Residents of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, have flooded onto the streets, cheering 10 military experts, tasked with organising a peacekeeping force.

"No more war, we want peace," they shouted, hoping their arrival marks the end of a 13-day battle in the city.

The BBC's Paul Welsh in Monrovia says it is a remarkable effect with so few foreign troops on the ground.

HAVE YOUR SAY
This could be a turning point
John Blaney
US Ambassador

Meanwhile, the 15-strong Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has begun meeting in Ghana to decide the details of its long-awaited peace force.

"The Liberian crisis must be solved by Africans, so Africa can show that it is able to solve its problems," said Ghana's President John Kufuor, urging member states to pledge more troops.

In another boost for Monrovia residents, a cargo plane from the International Committee of the Red Cross has delivered emergency medical supplies and a water truck to the Liberian capital, the aid agency says.

The Nigerian-led military fact-finding mission arrived in Liberia on Wednesday evening. Liberians are now pleading with them to stay beyond their planned departure on Saturday.

It is tasked, according to Ecowas, with working out the logistics of sending in peacekeepers and will confine itself to Monrovia.

Click below to see a map of key places and rebel offensives

Ecowas agreed on 4 July to send 3,000 mainly Nigerian troops to Liberia but the deployment has been hampered by continuing fighting and haggling over who will bear the cost of the mission.

Mandate for action

The United States, which has resisted calls to send troops in, has introduced a draft resolution at the United Nations that would allow the immediate deployment of an international force to Liberia. The draft resolution, which is expected to be passed without a vote, reportedly foresees:

  • The immediate dispatch of peacekeepers from Ecowas and other states with a mandate to use force if necessary

  • Their replacement by a full UN force by 1 October after Secretary General Kofi Annan reports to the Security Council by 15 August

  • Approval for an urgent request from Mr Annan for the UN to underwrite some of the costs of the Nigerian troops due to go in first

Mr Annan said West African leaders had made it clear that they were prepared to send in troops but needed financial and logistical support, including airlifts.

The US is sending its own seaborne force - now said to be at most three days from Liberia - but it has no orders to deploy on shore.

Misery

Conditions in Monrovia are said to be appalling, with increasing numbers of children facing malnourishment as food and water supplies run dangerously low.

One-year-old Blessing Milton
We have a shortage of... everything that a human being needs to survive
Refugee Kate Wright

Monrovia's main hospitals are saying that within two weeks they will have run out of medicine and fuel for generators.

The senior medical officer at the city's main JFK hospital, Mohamed Sheriff, said they are receiving a huge number of patients daily and are struggling to cope.

Prices are soaring and the country's staple food, rice, is running out fast.

Rebels control the capital's food stocks in the port area and have been accused by the government of looting - though they say they have simply been handing out food to the hungry.

Another rebel group captured Liberia's second city, Buchanan, earlier this week, cutting off the last remaining route for food imports to get to government-held parts of the capital.

International aid groups say they can do little to help the 1.3 million people trapped in the city.

President Taylor - who also faces war crimes charges in neighbouring Sierra Leone - has agreed to quit office and accept asylum in Nigeria, but only after the arrival of peacekeepers.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Jeremy Frankel
"Both rebels and government say a truce will only hold with the commitment of an international force"



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