Liberia

Liberia: Fighting threatens planned talks, warns civil society

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MONROVIA, 24 February (IRIN) - The Civil Society Movement of Liberia has warned that renewed armed hostilities between rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and government troops in the west of the country threatens to mar planned peace talks.
Peace talks on Liberia are scheduled for Bamako, Mali next month under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Saar Philip Joe, the Civil Society Movement president told reporters onFriday that the movement would like both the government and the rebels to halt the fighting as a demonstration of their sincerity towards the restoration of peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.

The movement has 48 member organizations including the Teachers Association, the Press Union of Liberia and the Liberian Federation of Trade and Labour Unions.

"All that Liberians desire now is total peace during this crucial time when the country prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections on October 14, 2003," Joe said.

In January, a delegation of ECOWAS parliamentarians met with representatives of the LURD in Freetown, Sierra Leone and convinced the rebels to accept dialogue with the government of President Charles Taylor. The LURD reportedly accepted to hold talks and also dropped their earlier demand for Taylor's resignation.

The ECOWAS team later met Taylor, who also announced he had agreed to talks with the rebels, but ruled out any power-sharing agreement.

The LURD who have fought to topple Taylor since 1999, stepped up their attacks at the start of February against government troops and took control of strategic western towns including the provincial headquarters of Tubmanburg, about 60 km west of Monrovia and Bo-Water side, along the Liberia-Sierra Leonean border.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced, causing a fresh major influx into existing internally displaced persons' camps and stretching the capacity of the humanitarian community. Recently the government said it was seeking more land to set up temporary camps for the newly displaced.

[ENDS]

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