As Fighting Rages, UN, US Urge Liberian President to Resign

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The U.S. and United Nations are leading calls for embattled Liberian President Charles Taylor to step down and avert a humanitarian crisis looming in the capital city of Monrovia.\b

Millions of Liberians are caught up in the continuing armed conflict between Taylor's supporters and two rebel groups demanding his resignation.

A U.N. Security Council mission currently visiting Liberia called on the president to help bring about a peaceful political transition in the West African country by leaving office.

Britain's U.N. ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock - who is heading the mission - called on the international community, and in particular the U.S., to intervene to achieve this change.

Liberia has associations with the U.S. dating back to 1821, when a colony was established there for emancipated slaves.

Taylor has refused to leave office despite earlier pledging to give way to allow the formation of a transitional government.

He said reports that he would leave office in 30 days were "a dream," in direct contradiction of an agreement he made on June 4 at peace talks hosted by Ghana.

Taylor now says he will hand over power to the vice president in January, when his five-year term in office expires.

Rebel groups accuse Taylor - a warlord before he came to power - of plundering the country's natural resources.

Two armed groups, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), have carried out fierce attacks against government forces around Monrovia.

Rebel commanders said they were stunned by Taylor's decision to rescind the earlier resignation pledge.

They are quoted as saying they have now launched the final battle for the capital and will not stop the offensive until they have won control of the city.

Liberian health officials said at least 300 people had died, and widespread looting had taken place over the past two days of heavy fighting.

The U.S. State Department said there was no place for Taylor in a future Liberian government.

It called on him to resign, while also appealing to the warring parties to observe the terms of a cease-fire accord they signed in Ghana on June 17.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children, are sheltered at a U.S. Embassy compound in Monrovia, about a kilometer from the heavily guarded embassy itself.

Embassy officials said two Liberian employees, a security guard and a gardener, were killed on Wednesday when rocket-propelled grenades were fired into the complex, which is used by the U.S. mission as a storage area for fuel and water.

Government officials said nine people died in the incident. It's not clear who fired the grenades.

Taylor has been indicted by a U.N. international war crimes court based in neighboring Sierra Leone for his role in a bloody, decade-long civil war in that country.

The tribunal has urged Taylor to surrender, saying he has "no place to run."

Chief Prosecutor David Crane said the court had achieved a freezing of Taylor's personal and business bank accounts in Switzerland.

It would work with Swiss authorities to untangle his finances and identify the profits he reaped from his criminal activities in Sierra Leone.

"The money may be evidence of the joint criminal enterprise that we allege Taylor, with several other indictees, conducted in Sierra Leone over a period of years."

Meanwhile, the All Africa Conference of Churches said it has launched an appeal for financial aid to support the needs of affected communities there.

See Earlier Story:
Deadline Looms in Liberian Military Standoff
(June 10, 2003)

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