MONROVIA, 19 March (IRIN) - With
clashes between government forces and the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation
and Democracy (LURD) intensifying in western and central Liberia, a joint
security team on Monday began a cordon and search operation for "hidden
arms" in the capital, Monrovia. The team comprises the police and
an elite presidential guard force, the Anti-Terrorist Unit.
Police spokesman Singbe Johnson told IRIN in Monrovia on Tuesday that "with the present armed hostilities in the country, there is a possibility for infiltration of arms into the city by some individuals to cause havoc." The operation, he added, was for "hidden arms [and] is a normal precautionary measure intended to protect the general public."
However, the search, which began early in the morning around the diplomatic enclave of Mamba Point where UN, US Embassy and EU offices are situated, did not immediately yield any arms.
Defence sources told IRIN that serious clashes were continuing between the government and LURD fighters in the Gbalatua area in the northwest of the country.
The Inter-Religious Council, a group composed of Muslim and Christian clerics who have been holding talks with LURD to end the conflict, issued a statement on Monday evening in which it called on both sides "to cease fire without precondition".
The council urged the government, the LURD and all the major stakeholders in the Liberian conflict to reconcile their differences for the sake of peace and stability in Liberia.
Liberian President Charles Taylor also called for a ceasefire at a consultative meeting he held with eminent citizens and civil society leaders last week, ahead of proposed talks between government and the LURD in Bamako, Mali. He said there could not be peace talks without a ceasefire.
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