Blah calls for end to fighting in Liberia

The new Liberian leader, Moses Blah, has called on rebel forces to end the fighting and help rebuild the war-torn country.

Liberia has faced civil war for more than a decade, but the departure of former president Charles Taylor yesterday raised hopes that peace talks could progress.

The rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy had stated that it would only lay down its weapons if the former warlord stepped down.

Mr. Taylor is now heading for the town of Calabar in south-eastern Nigeria.

The ceremony in the capital, Monrovia, yesterday was attended by several high-profile African leaders, including South African president Thabo Mbeki.

His spokesperson, Bheki Kumalo, was reluctant to say today whether or not Mr. Taylor would face pressure from within Africa to stand before the war crimes court in Sierra Leone.

However, he noted: “It is important to engender a culture of accountability on the African continent; leaders must really be accountable for the kinds of action that they take while in power.”

Mr. Taylor has been indicted by the UN-backed special court in Freetown for atrocities carried out by the rebels that he supported during the war in Sierra Leone.

A force of around 800 west African peacekeepers has been successful in bringing an end to the fighting after entering Monrovia last week. But there is still a stand-off between the opposing sides, and it is hoped that US troops will lend their assistance.

President Blah will meet with US general Thomas Turner today to discuss the role that the American military can play.

The US has historic ties with Liberia, which was founded by freed American slaves. It is hoped that at the very least it will assist in securing the port in Monrovia to allow much-needed humanitarian supplies to reach the population.

According to reports the rebels have accepted the appointment of Moses Blah, but would like to see a neutral government as soon as possible. President Blah is expected to stand down in October.