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New Liberian Transition Leader Chosen

BY Admin  August 21, 2003 at 4:43 PM EDT

In Ghana, the chief mediator announced that businessman Gyude Bryant would lead the transition administration and would oversee the recently signed peace accord for Liberia.

The interim government will take power from Taylor’s successor, former Vice President Moses Blah, on Oct. 14, and govern until in 2005 when a new, elected government will take power.

“The first step of unifying the people starts from today,” retired Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar of Nigeria said. “Do not let your people down.”

The peace accord prohibited Liberia’s rebels and government officials from being appointed to top posts in the interim government. The possible leaders were chosen from a list of nominees submitted by political parties and civic groups.

Bryant, a 54-year-old heavy equipment dealer, was seen as the most neutral among the three candidates, the Associated Press reported.

“I have lived there throughout all these problems, and I see myself as a healer,” Bryant said.

Bryant pledged to work closely with the United Nations and other agencies in the two-year period. Bryant’s priorities include disarming combatants, restoring order and basic services such as electricity, knocked out by fighting in 1992 and never repaired.

Thursday’s selection ended talks in Ghana that began on June 4, but were constantly delayed because of fighting in Liberia.

While the talks ended in Ghana’s capital, in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, U.N. envoy Jacques Klein said he would ask the Security Council to send 15,000 troops to the war-ravaged nation.

Klein also asked that American forces remain in Liberia to train a new army.

“We are hoping the U.S. will take it on,” he said, according to the AP.

The Security Council has authorized a U.N. mission to Liberia to take the place of the West African-led force, but has not said how many troops will be sent.

President Bush has said U.S. troops will be out of Liberia by Oct. 1.

Klein, however, stressed the need for U.S. troops to stay.

“Some European countries have said they will only participate in the U.N. mission if there’s a residual American presence — and that means anything at all. That’s why we would like them to do the army part,” Klein said.

Klein said that Liberia has helped the United States in the past, providing rubber resources during World War II and acting as a base during the Cold War, especially for operations against Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya in the 1980s.

“You don’t let countries down when they’ve helped you in your national security,” Klein said.