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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 11:50 GMT
UN fury over new Liberian clashes
Boy in Totota
Civilians with food are targeted by gunmen in rural areas
The top United Nations official in Liberia has made a blistering attack on government and rebel forces engaged in fighting in the east.

In an interview with the BBC's Network Africa programme, Jacques Klein called those violating the August peace deal "thieves, murderers and criminals".

He said that all factions were engaged in fighting, despite repeated appeals for the attacks to end.

But he said the UN could not act until it had enough troops on the ground.

"They will continue to rob, they will continue to steal, until we're in charge," he warned.

'Tragedy'

He said there would not be enough troops in the country until January.


"It's a tragedy for the people of Liberia that these people, who signed a peace agreement, consistently violate it."

The UN is bringing together representatives of the two rebel factions and the government in Monrovia in the hope that they can end the fighting.

But Mr Klein seems to have little faith that the appeals will succeed.

Terror

"Leadership is weak," he says, "and these are roving bands of gangsters terrorising the population".

A BBC correspondent says that without the necessary troops there is little that Mr Klein can do but appeal to the UN headquarters in New York to speed up the deployment.

Civilians near Totota
Outside Monrovia the situation remains unstable

The UN currently has 4,500 troops patrolling in and around Monrovia.

Peacekeepers are due to fly back to eastern Nimba County after finding fresh evidence of fighting.

They were unable to land on Sunday but saw armed fighters in the streets and "huge columns of smoke" hanging over some towns, officials say.

Former President Charles Taylor, who is now in exile in Nigeria, launched his rebellion in Nimba and it is home to many of his fighters.

Tens of thousands of villagers in rural areas have fled to the main road linking the east with the capital, which is patrolled by peacekeepers and offers them some respite from intimidation.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Jacques Klein
"We appeal to all sides to stop this, but I don't think they will"



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