- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2002

Liberia unraveling

Liberia is facing a breakdown in social order and the West appears not to care, says a new report by the International Crisis Group.

The impoverished and war-torn West African nation "is showing all the major warning signs of political, military, economic and social deterioration," the ICG said in its report, "Liberia: Unraveling."

"The question is whether the international community will not only recognize these signs but also muster the will to take effective action to prevent broader violence," the report says.

Liberia has "slipped way down the priority list of the United States," said Fabienne Hara, an Africa specialist at the ICG. Washington opposes Liberian President Charles Taylor because of his meddling in civil strive in other countries in West Africa, including Sierra Leone and Guinea, but has no plans to remove him from power. Mr. Taylor also is fighting a civil war against the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy.

The ICG recommends that the United States and the European Union ease Mr. Taylor out of power in exchange for guarantees of immunity from prosecution for human rights violations.

"Removal of Taylor by force, however, is an unattractive option that would have devastating consequences for the civilian population," said John Norris, another ICG Africa analyst.

The report concludes that the "international community's awkward stance working neither to engage nor remove President Taylor has produced a wounded government that is increasingly desperate in the face of a steady civil war and a general population that remains braced for the worst."

Kuwait buys choppers

Kuwait is planning to buy 16 attack helicopters from U.S. aircraft maker Boeing, the U.S. Embassy says.

Richard Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, and Defense Minister Sheik Jaber Mubarak al-Hamad signed the $886 million deal over the weekend. The contract also includes training for 48 Kuwaiti pilots and technicians.

"The helicopters will contribute significantly to Kuwait's ability to defend itself," the Kuwaiti News Agency quoted Mr. Jones as saying.

State opens terror site

The State Department has a new Web site to gather details on the international fight against terrorism.

The Web site (www.state.gov/coalition/12669.htm) provides information about foreign contributions, international terrorist organizations, homeland security and congressional action, among other facts and figures.

It includes a list of action on the diplomatic front from public diplomacy to the Rewards for Justice program.

"The State Department's Web site now features a comprehensive electronic press kit that offers a broad range of information and Web links concerning the global coalition against terrorism and events surrounding the commemoration of the September 11 attacks," a department spokesman said last week in announcing the feature.

Kyrgyz prisoner update

The political opposition in Kyrgyzstan expects the authoritarian government of President Askar Akayev to release a key political prisoner before he meets President Bush later this month.

Mr. Akayev plans to hold talks with Mr. Bush on Sept. 23 during the opening of the U.N. General Assembly.

Human rights activists and even some government officials said they expect Mr. Akayev to release Feliks Kulov, the former Kyrgyz vice president held on charges widely condemned as political, says Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Mr. Kulov was arrested in September 2000 after announcing plans to run against Mr. Akayev. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for abusing his office when he served as national security minister from 1997 to 1998. Mr. Kulov had been acquitted of those charges a month earlier.

"The U.S. and the European Union agree that Kulov is a political prisoner and have called for his release," RFE/RL said in a report on the political situation in the Central Asian nation.

More than 2,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Kyrgyzstan as support for the operation in Afghanistan.

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