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Liberia Situation Critical: UN Action Urgent

With situation reported critical, Annan again urges quick UN action on Liberia

With United Nations humanitarian officials calling the situation in war-torn Liberia critical, Secretary-General Kofi Annan renewed his appeal today for urgent action to deploy peacekeeping forces in the West African country, where tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting and food stocks are dwindling.

A day after he sent a letter to the Security Council seeking speedy action to accelerate measures needed for the deployment of an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) “vanguard force,” Mr. Annan told his mid-year news conference he had been in constant touch with the United States, which has pledged support, and the ambassadors of other countries.

“We may see a draft resolution very shortly being put to the Council…so that we will be able to help the tragic and deplorable situation on the ground and try and get assistance to the people,” he said, referring to the financial and logistical support, including airlifts, sough by ECOWAS.

Noting that US ships were sailing to Liberia and were in contact with ECOWAS, Mr. Annan said: “I hope once they are on the ground, the two forces will cooperate and make a difference in the lives of the Liberians, who are in such dire straits at the moment.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today that as the number of internally displaced persons was reported to be growing both within and outside Monrovia, the Liberian capital, which has come under lethal rebel fire almost daily over the past two weeks, stocks of food and fuel appeared to be diminishing, making the situation critical.

There were also reports of looting of commercial food stocks, OCHA said. The whereabouts of 9,000 tons of food in a UN World Food Programme warehouse remained unknown and fuel shortages severely hampered the ability of humanitarian agencies to truck water supplies to those in need.

Asked about reports that Liberian President Charles Taylor was reconsidering his promise to resign, which the United States has made a condition for its involvement in the crisis, Mr. Annan said he did not know how serious these latest statements were, but “we expect him to leave.”

Asked whether Mr. Taylor should appear before the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which has indicted him for war crimes, the Secretary-General said: “I think the law must take its course. The law does have a long arm and we will see what happens.”

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