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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 August, 2003, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Bitter Taylor bids Liberia farewell
Baby being treated
Liberia's civilians desperately need humanitarian relief
Liberia's president has bid a bitter farewell to supporters, saying his forced departure from his elected post is a "rape of democracy".

Charles Taylor told members of his National Patriotic Party in the capital, Monrovia, that he would leave office on Monday.

He was, he said, standing down in the interests of the Liberian people, under the terms of the international peace plan.

The main rebel group is under pressure to fulfil its own peace commitment to allow peacekeepers and aid agencies into its territory.

We are convinced that we are not the problem in Liberia
Charles Taylor

The BBC's Barnaby Phillips notes that while Mr Taylor has promised to resign, the former warlord has been much vaguer about actually leaving the country.

Rebel co-operation with the peace plan hinges on his departure, however.

Nigeria, which is leading the West African peacekeeping force being deployed in Liberia, has offered to grant him asylum.

Mr Taylor has in the past objected to leaving Liberia because he is wanted by the UN-backed special war crimes court in neighbouring Sierra Leone for backing rebels there who carried out atrocities.

Succession

"They [the international community] have prevented me from carrying out my constitutional responsibility of defending the country," Mr Taylor said.

CHARLES TAYLOR
President Charles Taylor
Former warlord
Won 1997 elections
Accused of backing brutal Sierra Leone rebels

"We are convinced that we are not the problem in Liberia."

Our correspondent says the president's supporters regard him as the victim of the American and British governments who are insisting on his departure.

His spokesman has warned that Mr Taylor's departure could be followed by more bloodshed, involving his demoralised fighters.

"Once the president leaves, our boys might be stigmatised. If that is the case, you must expect chaos. Hell might just break loose," said Vaani Passawe.

Mr Taylor has said he will hand power to Vice-President Moses Blah - an ally from his days of guerrilla training in Libya.

West African officials say Mr Blah's spell in office would be short, possibly just days, as a new interim president is chosen at peace talks in Ghana.

Aid blocked

The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rebels are holding the strategically important port area of the capital.


Aid workers say the situation is critical with warehouses looted and fighting blocking the delivery of fresh food and medical aid.

A US military envoy and Nigerian peacekeepers are in daily contact with the rebels, trying to ease tension.

Our correspondent says that the port area is Lurd's prize possession and it is hard to see them pulling out until President Taylor leaves the country.

A humanitarian crisis has also been reported by the International Red Cross in the port city of Buchanan, to the east.

The city is being held by another rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (Model).

More than 8,000 people have taken refuge in the Catholic Mission compound there, which is said to have run out of food and water.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"Behind rebel lines the situation is critical"



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