Liberia

Liberia: US warns both government and rebels

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MONROVIA, 20 March (IRIN) - The United States ambassador to Liberia, John William Blaney, on Thursday strongly warned both the Liberian government and the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) to cease hostilities and engage in direct negotiations without preconditions, saying the country needed peace now.
Addressing a news conference in the capital, Monrovia, Blaney said: "This war needs to be stopped. The US condemns the idea of this war continuing year after year, with neither side likely to win and supports the pending Bamako peace talks."

Representatives of Liberia's government and rebels are expected to meet in Bamako, Mali.

Blaney told reporters: "Our view of achieving a ceasefire in Liberia necessitates direct negotiations between the two parties to the conflict, with a few facilitators involved, such as the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia and the government of Mali chairing these negotiations". Both parties, he added "must come to the table without preconditions, ready to end the violence, prepared to negotiate in good faith and commit to a ceasefire"

The envoy urged both the government and LURD to abide by and respect recommendations made by the International Contact Group of Liberia, which met in New York last month.

He described the human rights situation in Liberia as highly inadequate and said that in several respects it was worsening. "Military forces and LURD continue to violate the human rights of Liberian people," he said. "There has been a deplorable increase in forced military recruitment in IDP and refugee camps, in cities and elsewhere. This includes abducting children into their ranks, thereby exploiting and endangering them and causing enormous pain and hardship to their families. This must stop."

On the recent killing of three aid workers of the Adventist development and Relief Agency by armed men whom the government claimed to be Liberian mercenaries, Blaney said: "It is essential for the government to rapidly and aggressively investigate these murders and bring to justice those responsible. That investigation should include suspects who live in Liberia." According to the envoy, under President Charles Taylor "a pattern has emerged of falsely accusing and arresting those who fall into disfavour with somehow being connected with LURD."

Blaney told reporters that the Liberian government had issued a 48 km limit on the movements of US diplomats in the country including himself, because of a US State Department's warning in January against travel by US citizens to Liberia.

"The consequences of maintaining these restrictions are many and serious. For example, the government has made it impossible to for us to provide consular services to some American citizens in Liberia," Blaney said. "Our ability to assess and provide humanitarian assistance to Liberians in the camps will drop, and so will our ability to assess and monitor development projects."

Liberian security, he added, had also harassed, intimidated and sometimes arrested NGO representatives implementing the embassy's development projects and employees of a firm contracted to provide security for the embassy.

[ENDS]

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