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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
UN starts Liberia peace patrols
UN peacekeeper in Monrovia
Peacekeepers have made an impact on the capital
United Nations peacekeepers are patrolling the streets of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, a day after a gun-battle marred the official launch of their mission.

Some 3,500 West African troops already deployed in the capital swapped their green berets for blue ones of the UN as authority was transferred to the world body.

The BBC's Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says they are manning the same check-points and roadblocks - only the colour of their helmets has changed.

The eastern district of Red Light, the scene of Wednesday's exchange of gunfire between rebels and government troops, is now calm, our correspondent says.

The UN will be increasing the visibility of its troops around Monrovia
Margaret Novicki
UN spokeswoman
The 15,000-strong UN mission in Liberia is set to become the world's biggest peace force but no new troops have arrived yet.

A battalion of troops from Bangladesh is expected within two weeks, the UN says.

'Mass exodus'

Three people were killed in the gunbattle as rebel leader Sekou Conneh arrived for a first meeting with interim President Moses Blah.

In northern Liberia, a government military commander told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that his positions had been attacked near the border of Bong and Nimba counties, leading to a "mass exodus" of civilians.

The BBC's Paul Welsh in Monrovia says Wednesday's events showed the peacekeepers how difficult the task ahead is likely to be.

A peacekeeper helps a wounded civilian

"The UN will be increasing the visibility of its troops around Monrovia," spokeswoman Margaret Novicki told Reuters news agency.

Our correspondent says the rebels had supposedly been disarmed for the entry into the capital and the big question is why the peacekeepers, who were escorting Mr Conneh, allowed them to bring guns in, if that is what happened.

"I hope this will not affect the peace process," said Defence Minister Daniel Chea.

However, our correspondent says, the regional peacekeepers have already made a huge impact on the capital and the area around it, bringing a level of peace and stability Liberians could only dream of two months ago.

The additional troops will be tasked with stabilising the rest of the country, where civilians are still harassed by gunmen and where there are still regular skirmishes between rebel and government forces.

The BBC's Paul Welsh
"Any false sense of security was smashed today"


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