- The Liberian government and the country's two main rebel factions have signed a ceasefire agreement paving the way for comprehensive peace talks and the proposed formation of a transitional administration in the hopes of ending the West African nation's bloody civil war, according to a top UN envoy.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Representative for Liberia, Abou Moussa, reported that the 12-point cessation of hostilities agreement was signed in Accra, Ghana, between Monrovia and the two rebel movements, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL).
According to the agreement, the signing "shall be followed immediately by the engagement of the government of Liberia, LURD and MODEL with all other Liberian political parties and stakeholders in dialogue, to seek, within a period of 30 days, a comprehensive peace agreement."
The agreement calls for the formation of a transitional government, which will not include President Charles Taylor, in accordance with his 4 June declaration at the opening of the Accra talks. In his address, had President Taylor offered to "remove himself from the process that would continue to perpetuate this crisis ... [as] it has become apparent that some people believe that President Taylor is the problem."
The UN is expected to provide logistical and military personnel support to the Joint Verification Team led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is to identify the locations of the parties on the ground, and the Joint Monitoring Committee, which will supervise and monitor the ceasefire.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the signing of the Liberian ceasefire and called on the parties to now "build this momentum and create favourable security conditions throughout the country that will permit the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid to desperate civilians."
A statement issued by a UN spokesman in New York said Mr Annan viewed the agreement as "an important step forward in efforts to bring the conflict in Liberia to a negotiated end."
- The Secretary-General commends the Liberian parties for their sense of compromise in the national interest of peace in their country and urges them to scrupulously adhere to the terms of the agreement, spokesman Fred Eckhard said, adding that Mr Annan saluted the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in particular and other international parties whose "untiring support" had made the important achievement possible.
While the statement called on the parties to build on the momentum created by the cessation in hostilities to create security conditions that will permit humanitarian deliveries to begin immediately, it also appealed to the wider international community to respond generously to the request for emergency assistance for Liberia.
- He pledges the renewed commitment of the United Nations to continue to work with the Government of Liberia, ECOWAS and the international community as a whole in the quest for sustainable peace and progress in Liberia, the statement said.
On the humanitarian front, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) yesterday continued to urge all the Liberian parties to ensure that relief operations can safely resume throughout the country, where hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted and aid workers unable to reach them.
The agency said that food and some domestic items were distributed yesterday to 540 Sierra Leonean refugees who sought shelter in and around its office in Monrovia. There is a plan in place to move the refugees to Samukai camp as soon as the security situation permits.
In the meantime, Sierra Leonean refugees arriving in Monrovia from VOA camp continue to report rebel violence and looting on the outskirts of the city. UNHCR said it has been unable to confirm this, as well as a report of two deaths, because it lost direct contact with VOA camp when it was overrun by rebels last week.
However, the Liberian authorities, who deployed police to the camp over the weekend, did confirm routine violent activities. Fifteen looters were reportedly killing in the area during a clash with police.
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