- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2003

MONROVIA, Liberia — Thousands of Liberians marched behind an American flag yesterday, imploring President Bush to send troops to help stanch years of bloodshed in their West African nation.

About 2,000 demonstrators walked to the U.S. Embassy chanting slogans praising Mr. Bush, whose administration yesterday repeated its call for Liberia President Charles Taylor to resign. Mr. Taylor, indicted by the United Nations for war crimes, is battling a three-year insurgency to unseat him from power.

A few demonstrators stoned cars and brawled with police patrolling the rally, but there were no immediate reports of arrests or injuries. Across town, 300 Taylor supporters said his departure would set a precedent for Washington to topple any African leader it dislikes.

As the anti-Taylor crowd shouted, “No more Taylor! We want Bush! We want peace!” demonstrator Andrew N’golo expressed his desperation in the wake of recent fighting between Taylor loyalists and rebels.

“We are prepared to give our bodies as living sacrifices if that’s what it takes to bring peace to Liberia,” Mr. N’golo said.

Rebels last month launched their strongest-ever offensive against the Taylor government, with the main insurgent group eventually laying siege to Monrovia, the capital city of 1 million residents and hundreds of thousands of refugees.

The fighting killed hundreds of people.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan would like to see the United States lead a multinational peacekeeping force. African nations have offered 3,000 troops for any deployment.

As U.S. officials in Washington deliberated what action to take to quell unrest in Liberia, former President Jimmy Carter joined his voice to those calling for U.S. intervention in the war-torn country.

“U.S. leadership can and should extend to the deployment of U.S. forces,” Mr. Carter said in a statement released by his foundation, the Atlanta-based Carter Center. “American leadership now is critical to create the security on which long-term stability for Liberia and the region can be built.”

Sporadic fighting has continued despite a June 17 cease-fire agreement between the warring parties.

Rebels began fighting three years ago to oust Mr Taylor, who won contested elections and took the presidency in 1997 after the end of a 1989-1996 civil war that he launched.

On June 4, a U.N.-backed court indicted Mr. Taylor, whose gun-trafficking supported Sierra Leone rebels in their vicious 10-year terror campaign, where rebel atrocities included hacking off victims’ limbs. He also is accused of plundering that nation’s rich diamond reserves.

Liberia was founded as a haven of liberty by freed American slaves in the 19th century.

Liberia’s crisis hangs over Mr. Bush’s visit to Africa next week, with the United States under pressure to act because of its historical ties to Liberia.

West African military chiefs of staff met in Ghana yesterday to discuss a possible deployment of regional troops but many Liberians think only U.S. soldiers can save them.

Many West African leaders say that rather than see Mr. Taylor on trial, they would like to end Liberia’s war. But prosecutors at the court in Sierra Leone say they will pursue Mr. Taylor, wanted for his role in that country’s civil war.

Mr. Taylor has offered to step down in January, but he wants the indictment lifted. He emerged dominant in 1997 elections after a war in which 200,000 people died but his foes rose up again in 2000 and now control an estimated 60 percent of the country.

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