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Annan says fighting in Liberia could threaten regional stability, urges end to clashes

Annan says fighting in Liberia could threaten regional stability, urges end to clashes

Reacting to an upsurge in fighting between Liberian government forces and armed elements, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for an end to the violence, which he warned could negatively affect stability in the sub-region.

"The Secretary-General is troubled that innocent Liberian civilians, mostly women and children, have once again been forced to flee their homes in search of safety and relief, while others are trapped in areas where they cannot be easily reached by humanitarian agencies, and therefore cannot be assisted or protected," a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement on his behalf.

The Secretary-General also expressed concern about the "negative impact" of the fighting in the northwestern part of the country on prospects for peace and stability in Liberia and its Mano River Union neighbours, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to the statement.

Through his spokesman, Mr. Annan called on those involved to "eschew violence as a means of achieving their objectives." The parties were also called on to allow unhindered access by humanitarian agencies to those in need.

In a related development, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today reported that intensified fighting in Liberia's Lofa county continues to push refugees and Sierra Leonean returnees into Sierra Leone. "Heavy shelling coming from Liberia also continues to be heard in Kailahun area of Sierra Leone," UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski told reporters in Geneva.

As part of its efforts to assist both returnees and Liberian refugees in eastern Sierra Leone, UNHCR had just established a field office in Koidu, but work there was interrupted on Thursday following clashes between former combatants of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and the pro-government Civil Defence Forces (CDF). “The situation was this morning said to be calm,” Mr. Janowski said.