Peace Talks Continue in Ghana Following Ceasefire Agreement

Jun 20, 2003 03:43 PM EDT

Following the signing of a ceasefire agreement between the Liberian Government and the country's two main rebel factions earlier this week, the United Nations said today that peace talks are continuing in Accra, Ghana, where the parties are drafting a long-term agreement aimed at leading to a proposed transitional administration.

According to a UN spokesman in New York, discussions are underway with all the stakeholders on the procedure towards a comprehensive Peace Agreement in the wake of Tuesday's ceasefire.

Abou Moussa, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Liberia, is taking part in the dialogue, which includes West African mediators and representatives of the two rebel movements, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy and Elections in Liberia (MODEL).

Along with an immediate cessation of hostilities, the accord envisages that within 30 days, the Government, rebels and political parties should "seek a comprehensive peace agreement." That peace agreement will, among other issues, cover the formation of a transitional administration, which will not include current President Charles Taylor. When the Accra talks opened on 4 June, President Taylor announced that he would step down if he was seen as an obstacle to long-term peace. That same day, the Special Court in Sierra Leone unsealed an indictment of President Taylor for war crimes.

Meanwhile, the assembling of the Joint Verification Team, which will be led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), is almost completed so that it can start its work this weekend. According to the ceasefire agreement, the team will verify the current position of the parties and plot unit locations on a map.

While skirmishes between Government forces and LURD rebels were reported yesterday in towns on the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia, UN agencies noted rejoicing in the streets of the city centre following the signing of the ceasefire and relief among aid organizations that may now be able to assist desperate people in Monrovia and throughout the war-torn country.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the local Red Cross began the distribution of food rations yesterday to some 14,000 displaced people who had sought safety at a sport stadium in Paynesville. The food commodities provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) included bulgur wheat, pulses, vegetable oil and salt, enough for 15 days.

By sarah park
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