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"Limited" Role for US Troops to Stabilize Liberia

Bush Open to a "Limited" Role for U.S. Troops to Stabilize Liberia

Says deployment conditional on President Charles Taylor leaving

By Wendy S. Ross
Washington File White House Correspondent

President Bush said July 14 that he is open to deploying U.S. troops for a "limited" role in stabilizing Liberia, but again made clear that Liberia's President Charles Taylor must leave.

Helping the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) enforce a cease-fire in the war-torn West African nation "may require troops. We don't know how many yet," Bush said following a meeting in the Oval Office with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

"Any commitment we have would be limited in size and limited in tenure. Our job would be to help facilitate an ECOWAS presence, which would then be converted into a U.N. peacekeeping mission," said Bush.

A U.S. military team in the region is still deciding "what is necessary from our side to fulfill the commitment I have made that we will help maintain the cease-fire -- by the way, this is conditional on Mr. Taylor leaving," Bush said.

Anan discussed the outlines of a plan under which ECOWAS would deploy forces to Liberia: Taylor would leave; U.S. forces would be sent to buttress ECOWAS; U.S. forces would leave and the operation would turn into a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

"We have more or less agreed to a general approach on the Liberian issue, and I am very pleased with that," Annan said.

Bush did not spell out the details of the U.S. role but emphasized that he had told Annan that any forces Washington sends will not go as U.N. peacekeepers, who wear signature blue helmets.

"There must be a U.N. presence quickly into Liberia," said Bush. "He and I discussed how fast it would take to blue-helmet whatever forces arrive -- other than our own, of course. We would not be bluehelmeted."

"We would be there to facilitate and then to leave," said Bush.

Asked when he hoped to make a final determination of the U.S. role in Liberia, Bush replied: "As soon as possible."

Bush, who returned to Washington July 12 after a five-day trip to sub-Saharan Africa, also said he hoped to make headway in helping to battle the spread of HIV/AIDS, citing his five-year, $15 billion plan to combat the pandemic.

Bush and Annan said they also discussed the Middle East peace process and the situation in Iraq.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)


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