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General News of Thursday, 17 July 2003

Source: GNA

Liberians fail to sign Comprehensive Peace Agreement

Accra, July 17 GNA - The 30-day deadline for the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Plan on war-ruined Liberia ended on Thursday in a stalemate since the stakeholders at the ECOWAS-mediated Peace Talks could not strike a compromise on the text of the agreement.

The Warring Factions in the protracted bloody conflict signed a Ceasefire Agreement on June 17 in Accra that called for a transitional government to seal a Comprehensive Peace pact.

A source at the ECOWAS Secretariat told the Ghana News Agency in Accra that the delay in announcing an interim government was due to major differences in the memoranda submitted by the Liberian Government and the two rebel groups - Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), over the hierarchy of the interim administration.

The source said the 18 political parties and the civil society groups that were party to the agreement had no problem with how the transitional arrangement was packaged although they insisted on the rule of law and the respect of the sanctity of the Liberian Constitution. The peace agreement was signed after intensive back-door negotiations and brainstorming that had gone on since June 4 at Akosombo in the Eastern Region and later in Accra.

The one-month old Talks being facilitated by Former Nigerian Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar have been gingered up by strenuous efforts of the ECOWAS Mediation Team to end the stalemate over the factional differences between the three warring factions.

The sticky points were initially, the pre-conditions set by LURD and MODEL for President Taylor to step down following his indictment by the UN War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone before they signed the agreement.

After President Taylor decided to bow to international pressure to step down and go into exile in Nigeria, another struggle began among the factions over the leadership of the interim government.

While the LURD rebel group had announced their intention to head the government, Mr Louis Brown, Liberian Government representatives, also insisted that since President Taylor was legitimately elected it would be fair for the Vice-President, Mr Moses Blah to complete his term of office.

General Abubakar is expected to hold a Press Conference late Thursday to throw light on the stalemate.

Meanwhile, the Liberian Women Pressure Groups that had embarked on peaceful demonstrations since the Talks began offered intercessory prayers on Thursday for stability in their country at the M-Plaza Hotel. The women numbering over 20 went on their knees praying and singing for God's intervention to ensure lasting peace.

They prayed against the use of Juju (black magic) and other diabolical devices of the Devil to extend over a decade of war that had led to grave humanitarian crisis and carnage.

" Do something new in our life today," they sang on top of their voices.