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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 01:13 GMT
Liberia disarmament shelved again
Lurd rebel commanders (l) with Unmil leader General Opande (r)
UN troops will work with rebels in the programme
The disarmament process in Liberia has been postponed for another month to allow for an information campaign, United Nations officials have said.

The aim is to provide more time for joint teams of UN peacekeepers and former militia-members to explain the process to rank-and-file fighters.

Monitoring teams from all parties will now set up collection centres during the campaign period.

Unmil expects some 40,000 fighters in Liberia to disarm under the plan.

The disarming process was due to start next week after it was postponed for the first time in December.

This followed a row over cash compensation for handing in the guns.

The latest postponement was decided on Thursday after a meeting between rebel groups, the transitional government and the UN mission in Liberia (Unmil).

Laying down arms

The disarmament programme will now begin on 20 January. It will be carried out by a joint team made up of the rebels, Unmil, the transitional government and civil society.

Gradually we will produce a result
General Soyeba Kamara
Lurd rebel group
The BBC's Mark Doyle in Monrovia says the UN decision to delay the disarmament programme is a victory for common sense.

Frontline commanders, especially among the rebels, had been complaining that the UN had not involved them enough in explaining the disarmament process to their fighters on the ground and that this was the cause of dangerous misunderstandings.

General Soyeba Kamara of the main rebel group Lurd (Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy) said he was pleased the UN was involving them more.

"Today's meeting has been one of the best meetings we have ever had," he said on Thursday. "This time around they have involved all of the stakeholders to contribute to the peace process and we will be telling our brothers the disarmament is on course.

"Gradually we will produce a result."

UN spokesperson Margaret Novicki said all the factions had agreed to a carefully planned demobilisation process.

Teams will be sent to set up disarmament centres in Tubmanburg, Buchanan, Gbarnga and Monrovia.

This phase is due to take about 20-30 days.

Under the programme the fighters will receive $300 each for laying down their arms.

They will then get food rations, counselling and education, according to the UN plan.

The problems included lack of adequate peacekeepers and poor command structures among militia groups that frustrated the shepherding of fighters to disarmament sites in a safe and disciplined manner.

The UN has some 7,500 peacekeepers in Liberia, due to rise to 15,000 in the coming months.

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