U.S. Weighs International Call to Send Peacekeepers to Liberia
The president told reporters at the White House, ”We’re concerned when we see suffering, people are suffering there — the political instability is such that people are panicking. But the good news is there’s a cease-fire in place now.”
“And one of the things that [Secretary of State Colin Powell] is going to do is to work closely with the United Nations to see how best to keep the cease-fire in place. We’re exploring all options as to how to keep the situation peaceful and stable.”
He also reiterated the American call for Charles Taylor, president of Liberia, to step down.
“In order for there to be peace and stability in Liberia, Charles Taylor needs to leave now,” Mr. Bush said.
Earlier Wednesday, Taylor again rejected a Nigerian offer of safe haven in part because he reportedly fears facing a war crimes trial in neighboring Sierra Leone, senior U.N. diplomats told The Associated Press. A U.N.-backed court indicted Taylor last month for his role in the bloody civil war in Sierra Leone and many believe if Taylor leaves Liberia he will be arrested.
President Bush’s comments followed a meeting with Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other key national security officials, the latest in a series of high-level consultations within the administration to draft a final Liberian policy.
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the ongoing meetings within the Bush administration had not lead to a final position.
“[N]o decisions have been made yet except that we are concerned with the situation in Liberia and concerned as well with the safety of our people in Liberia, but really for the suffering that the Liberian people are going through right now,” Powell told Jim Lehrer on June 30.
The Associated Press reported Powell said the president’s top foreign policy advisers expected to make their recommendations on Liberia to Mr. Bush very soon.
The U.S. has heard from a growing number of international leaders, including the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, that American forces should lead a peace keeping mission to the country founded by freed American slaves in 1847. Even the two sides in the conflict have said they would welcome American intervention.
“[M]any are expecting the U.S. to lead that operation. Several countries, members of the U.N. have appealed for that. The Liberian population is also asking for that,” Annan said Tuesday. “What is important is: we need a country with capacity, a military capacity, that can deploy a robust force – it doesn’t have to be very large – that can make a difference on the ground… we need a country with real capacity to go in with a robust force.”
Although Secretary Rumsfeld has expressed concern about an American-led peacekeeping deployment, he arrived at the White House Wednesday with a plan to deploy 2,000 American soldiers as a part of a 3,000-member force, news services quote Pentagon officials as saying.