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Wednesday, 16 August, 2000, 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK
Q&A: Charles Taylor on gunrunning
President Taylor: Allegations that he traded guns for diamonds with Sierra Leone rebels?
President Taylor: Is he trading guns for diamonds?
BBC Focus on Africa's Robin White asks President Charles Taylor if Liberia is supplying guns to RUF rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone.

Charles Taylor: Well you know, it's very difficult and frightening when you are dealing with major countries as Britain and the United States, who are the principal architects of this smear campaign against Liberia.

And why it is frightening is when you have major countries, the leader of the free world, saying to the rest of all of us, 'we have evidence, you take it, we don't have to show it, you're guilty.'

We have, instead of being innocent until proven guilty, we are guilty and we must prove our innocence. I have a very serious problem with that.

[Q] The question is, are you allowing supplies through to the RUF, through Liberia?

[A] No we are not.

Eyewitnesses

[Q] There are some people say they've seen them going through.

[A]: We can always have eyewitnesses, but we know that the United States government, the United States is the world's only superpower, and I think they have to use that power now constructively.


May I just add. There is a satellite over Liberia every 48 minutes. We are aware of that. You want to tell me they don't have - the United States can take a picture of a matchstick, or even a safety pin, they don't have any evidence of anything?

I mean why would now all of a sudden it is an eyewitness? Come on, Robin, that's not true.

[Q] Presumably they must think they have very good evidence, otherwise they wouldn't make the charge.

[A] Well Robin, haven't they had sufficient time to produce the evidence? We've challenged it at the Security Council. We've been confronted with newspaper strips, quoting Western intelligence. But who constitutes Western intelligence? The British and the Americans. So they use their surrogate papers to defame names of individuals and countries and when they are confronted, isn't it practical for the great United States to confront this little country with evidence that everyone will say 'yes you are wrong, they don't have it because it does not exist. I don't have tanks in Liberia...

Control

[Q] If you wanted to, could you tell the RUF to stop fighting and they would have to obey you?

[A] No. No, why? I don't - To even assume such would mean that we control the RUF. We do not control them. The United States spends close to $5bn every year in support to Israel. Strong ally of the United States, strong friend of Liberia. Does the United States dictate to Israel? She does not. Even if it were possible, one cannot make these kinds of assumptions. I believe that our knowledge of the RUF should be constructive, and we've used it constructively in the release of the 500...

[Q] Exactly, exactly. You told the RUF to release the hostages, and they immediately released them.

[A] Well no, well don't say that we told them. We reasoned with them that it was in the best interests of peace to release them. We did not instruct them.

Hotline to RUF

[Q] Do you have a hotline to the RUF?

[A] No

[Q] You can't get on the phone right now and call up the RUF and say...

[A] Oh no I wouldn't do that. If this were true the British and Americans would have my voice on tape. We know they listen to every bit of telephone conversation.

[Q] So how did you get a message to the RUF?

[A] Radio. Radio. I have people that talk to them through radio. And mind you, that frequency is known by all military groups in this subregion, including the United Nations, the British warships that are offshore, the American intelligence...

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See also:

15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
16 May 00 | Africa
Liberia fishes in troubled waters
26 May 00 | Africa
Still open for diamond business
05 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Cleaning up the diamond badlands
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