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Liberia poised between ‘hope and disaster’ – Annan

Liberia poised between ‘hope and disaster’ – Annan

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today warned that Liberia is “poised between hope and disaster” and stressed that the prompt and urgent deployment of troops is needed to salvage the situation.

“I would urge ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] governments and the US Government to take the decisions regarding the deployment, announce them and make preparations to move in,” Mr. Annan said this morning on entering the UN Headquarters building in New York.

The Secretary-General also appealed to the rebels “to respect the ceasefire and understand that they would be held accountable for any humanitarian disaster the fighting causes in Monrovia.”

In a statement released later Monday by a spokesman, Mr. Annan also condemned the resumption of hostilities in Monrovia and called on parties concerned, in particular the rebel Liberians United for Democracy and Reconciliation (LURD) to fully observe the ceasefire. He reiterated that any attempt to seize power by force would be unacceptable to the international community.

Mr. Annan urged all the stakeholders at the ECOWAS-led Liberian Peace Talks in Accra, Ghana, to ensure a speedy conclusion of a negotiated settlement. “He strongly believes that the Liberian crisis cannot be solved by military confrontation,” the statement stressed.

Meanwhile over the weekend, mortars and shells continued to pound Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Thousands of people streamed through the streets of a neighbourhood housing diplomatic compounds seeking shelter behind their gates.

The US diplomatic residential compound at Greystone was crammed with more than 10,000 displaced people who have fled recent fighting. In addition, all UN compounds in Monrovia were housing displaced persons.

OCHA said providing humanitarian assistance has become increasingly difficult under the circumstances. The last seven international staff members working for the UN in the war-torn country left this morning by a US helicopter and they are all now in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

As of last week, there were an estimated 200,000 displaced persons scattered throughout the city. Food and water are running low at overcrowded centres housing those seeking shelter. Due mainly to poor sanitation, cholera and diarrhoea cases are reported to be on the increase.

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