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UN secures pact - rebels to allow aid into Liberia

UN helps secure pact between government, rebels to allow aid into Liberia

With desperately needed food and medical supplies now trickling into Liberia's capital, Monrovia, the United Nations envoy for that country has secured a pact with the government and two main rebel factions to give humanitarian workers and organizations free and secure access across the war-riven nation.

In Accra, Ghana yesterday - where peace talks on Liberia have been underway since early June - Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Jacques Paul Klein secured a signed agreement by the warring parties stipulating that each side will immediately ensure free and unimpeded access to all territories under their control to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid. The deal also guaranteed the security of international aid workers.

The pact was signed by representatives of the Government of Liberia, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), witnessed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union and Mr. Klein, on behalf of the UN.

The agreement comes into effect immediately, but in order to allow time for the commanders to inform all fighters, it has been agreed that the provisions will take effect from one minute before midnight Tuesday.

The UN and other relief agencies see the pact as a hopeful sign that it will be possible to meet the needs of Liberia's long-suffering population - many of whom have been cut-off from aid for months or even years. While waiting to see if the agreement will hold, the agencies are conducting assessments that would allow them to re-establish operations in areas that had been severed from aid by fighting. Later in the week, a similar assessment will be undertaken in the Liberian port town of Buchanan.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that there were also minor improvements in the humanitarian situation in Monrovia over the weekend. As security in the capital improved, many of the city's 450,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have begun returning to their homes.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been distributing the 4,300 tons of food that was not looted last week. The agency will prioritize urgent distributions to some 200,000 children as well as patients in city hospitals. The World Health Organization (WHO) has begun distributing the 5 tons of medical supplies that landed in Monrovia last week. Some stores around the city have begun to re-open and are expecting shipments of commercial goods including rice by the end of the week.

In other news from the political front, Mr. Klein met Saturday with Liberian President Moses Blah and his ministers, as well as the ECOWAS chief mediator, Gen. Abubakar Abdelsalami, the ECOWAS Executive Secretary, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, members of the International Contact Group for Liberia and Ambassador Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa representing the UN at the Accra talks.

Mr. Klein and his team are expected to return to Monrovia tomorrow to undertake preparations for the arrival of the UN assessment team, whose report will form the basis of the request to the Security Council for a mandate for the peacekeeping force for Liberia.


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