ECOWAS plans Liberian peace meeting in Dakar

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Current ECOWAS Chairman, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade is engaged in high-level consultations to convene a peace talk on Liberia in Dakar, ECOWAS Executive secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas said Wednesday.
The meeting is expected to bring together President Charles Taylor and leaders of Liberians United for Reconstruction and Democracy (LURD) dissidents, fighting his government.
"The ECOWAS chairman is working closely with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and other leaders for a negotiated settlement of the Liberian conflict," said Chambas, after visiting the PANAPRESS headquarters in the Senegalese capital.
He said in addition to sub-regional leaders, the consultation on the Liberian peace initiative also involved UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Secretary General of the African Union, Amara Essy.
Liberia's seven-year civil war ended in 1997, but the LURD movement has been trying to topple Taylor's government since 1999.
"Peace is required to prepare for national elections in Liberia next year.
Liberians should have peace and freedom," Chambas said, adding that peace in Liberia would also enhance stability in neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire, which are currently burdened with war refugees.
Underscoring the crucial link between peace and security, and economic growth and integration, Chambas said sub-regional Defence and Security Chiefs agreed at their just-ended meeting in Abidjan to strengthen co-operation.
To this end, he said member countries have committed one battalion of troops each, to boost the ECOWAS peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, for future deployment.
ECOMOG ended the Liberian civil war in 1997 and was later transferred to Sierra Leone.
Joint training and exercises by the 15-member ECOWAS States would enhance defence co-operation for the prevention, management and containment of conflicts in the sub-region, Chambas said.
Three military institutions, he said, have been identified in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria for different levels of joint defence and military training and co-operation in the sub-region.
Chambas was in Dakar for an ECOWAS meeting that involved sub- regional Force Commanders that served in Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as academics, on peace and security within the community.
"We need peace and stability to fight poverty and realise the development aspirations of our people," he added.

14 august 2002 19:24:00

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