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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Peacekeepers reach Liberian city
Nigerian peacekeeper
Until now, the peacekeepers have stayed in Monrovia
Residents of Liberia's second city, Buchanan, have given a warm welcome to western diplomats and West African peacekeepers, who have travelled to the key port for the first time.

Civilians and refugees lined the streets to cheer the convoy of more than 20 vehicles, 118 km from the peacekeepers' base in the capital, Monrovia.

United States ambassador John Blaney presented a dog-eared copy of the 18 August peace agreement to the rebels who control the city.

Some 1,500 Nigerian troops have brought calm to Monrovia but fighting has continued elsewhere in the country.

"I'm not your father, but I'm Uncle Sam - and you need an uncle, right?"
John Blaney
US ambassador
Interim President Moses Blah has called on the peacekeepers to deploy in more areas but commanders of the Ecomil force say they do not have sufficient numbers.

Some 100 Malian troops arrived in Monrovia on Friday to bolster the Ecomil force, but military analysts say at least 12,000 are needed to secure the entire country.

Spreading peace

On arriving in the run-down timber port, the convoy was greeted by a sign reading: "Model in Action. Fire Reply Fire. Ecomil, Don't Try It, Slow Down."

But they were not deterred.

President Moses Blah
President Blah has called for more peacekeepers

"I'm not your father, but I'm Uncle Sam - and you need an uncle, right?" Mr Blaney told the rebel commander who took the copy of the peace deal, reports AP news agency.

Folly Jalay, the local commander of the Model rebels said it was the first time he had seen the deal, according to Reuters news agency.

However, he said that as soon as he had word from his chairman, he would be happy to co-operate with Ecomil and let the West African troops deploy.

Model is the second largest rebel group and controls much of south-eastern Liberia.

Evacuation

The Nigerian commander of the Ecomil force, Brigadier-General Festus Okonkwo said he hoped that Ecomil would be able to deploy to Buchanan within a week.

A European Union team was able to evacuate British national John Garrety who stumbled out of the bush a few days ago and was treated at a clinic run by an Italian nun.

It was not immediately clear what he had been doing in the bush.

"We want peace. We're ready for peace," said rebel fighter Annie Cooper, wearing a cowboy hat and an AK-47 rifle.

Some 45,000 people have sought refuge in Buchanan and food and medicine are running short after widespread looting by the rebels, Reuters reports.




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