Nigeria complains of 'blackmail' over Taylor's asylum

Sirte- Libya (PANA) -- African Union chairman and Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday complained before African leaders attending their 5th ordinary annual summit here of 'harassment and blackmail' from certain quarters of the international community over the asylum status Abuja granted to ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor.
we are being pressured, harassed, blackmailed, even intimidated and even threatened to hand over Taylor contrary to the terms of his voluntary departure from his country," Obasanjo told the opening session of the heads of state summit at the Ouagadougou Conference Centre in Sirte, central Libya.
He explained that Nigeria accepted to grant Taylor asylum with the endorsement of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Permanent members of Security Council, African Union, ECOWAS and other nations to avert a potential bloodbath in Liberia as the rebels closed in on the capital, Monrovia.
"When we brought Taylor then to Nigeria, we were applauded," Obasanjo recalled, but said the issue had now turned into one of harassment from certain quarters, although the charges against Taylor existed then and no new charges have been announced.
Taylor was indicted by the UN-backed War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone for his role in the country's decade-long civil war during which thousands were killed and hundreds others, including children, were maimed, raped and drugged.
He denies the charges.
In August 2003, while two rebel groups besieged the Liberian capital, Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, John Kufuor of Ghana and then AU chairman and Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano travelled to Monrovia to preside over ceremonies during which Taylor handed over power to his deputy and left for Calabar, Nigeria, where he now lives in exile.
   But Obasanjo said he was only bringing the issue to the attention of his colleagues and that "if necessary I will come back" to the AU for advice and decision on the matter.
The current AU chair cautioned African leaders against decisions that could threaten the peace process in Liberia, where elections are due in October.
Such decisions could also ruin the redibility of African leaders to broker deals like the one that put Liberia on the path to peace, Obasanjo told the AU summit.

04 july 2005 14:39:00

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