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General News of Thursday, 31 July 2003

Source: GNA

President Kufuor addresses ECOWAS summit on Liberia

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Accra, July 31, GNA - The Chairman of ECOWAS, President John Agyekum Kufuor on Thursday called on African Regional Leaders to be proactive in resolving the bloody conflict in Liberia to prove to the rest of the world that Africans are capable of solving their own problems.
"The strength we need to achieve this target is the strength that comes from solidarity and unity of purpose," he said, while addressing the opening session of an extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West Africa States) organized at a short notice in Accra to discuss the deployment of troops to war-ravaged Liberia and the funding of the peacekeeping mission.
The Ghanaian Leader flanked by President Olunsegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema and ECOWAS Executive-Secretary, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas tasked the Sub-Regional Leaders to remain focused and committed in the effort to resolve other conflicts in the Region.
"We the Assembly of ECOWAS Heads of State and governments must authorise, here and now, the immediate deployment of forces into Liberia", he told the delegates that comprised Mrs Issatou Nje Saudy, Vice-President of The Gambia, Mr Lamine Sidime, Prime Minister of Guinea and representatives from Mali, Benin, La Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Ghana's Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. General Seth Obeng, who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Meeting of Chiefs of Defence Staff, and other stakeholders of the Liberian peace efforts also attended the summit. President Kufuor lauded the Nigerian Leader for committing two battalions of 1,300 men for immediate deployment to Liberia. Ghana, Mali, Benin and Togo have also pledged undisclosed number of troops to build a proposed Peacekeeping Force of 5000, expected to move into Liberia by next week to stop the carnage and humanitarian crisis that had hit Liberia following the latest breach of the June 17 Ceasefire Agreement signed by the three belligerent groups in Liberia. The President said the US had pledged logistics, funding and troops to the peacekeeping force.
The force - ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL)- that is requesting a budget of 104 million dollars for a six-month period would begin deployment after the return of a 12-member Military Reconnaissance Team the Force Commander Brigadier-General Festus Okonkwo is leading to Liberia.
President Kufuor, who gave an overview of efforts by ECOWAS to resolve the Liberian crisis, expressed regret about the escalation of violence by the Liberian Armed Forces and the two rebel groups - Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL).
He referred to the inception of the June 4, Ghana Peace Talks on Liberia, which he said, was given a boost by the decision of President Charles Taylor to step down at the end of his mandate. "We proceeded to engage the various Liberian stakeholders in dialogue and negotiations aimed at ending the war in the country and creating an enabling environment, based on effective disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and reconstruction, to facilitate the conduct of free, fair and credible elections in Liberia.
"Today we are faced with a rapid deteriorating crisis and a humanitarian tragedy that must be addressed quickly if Liberia is to be saved from self-destruction," the President said.
After the opening ceremony, the summit went behind-closed door for a meeting between the delegates and the Mediator at the Peace Talks, former Nigerian Head of State, General Abubakar Abdulsalami.

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