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Liberia: International contact group urges Government and rebels to hold ceasefire talks

Liberia: International contact group urges Government and rebels to hold ceasefire talks

Representatives of countries concerned about the situation in Liberia have issued a statement urging ceasefire talks between the country's Government and the rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).

Voicing "serious concern" about the conflict following a meeting in New York on Friday, the International Contact Group on Liberia reaffirmed the need for a comprehensive approach to the crisis and outlined specific steps which could garner global backing.

"The Group urges the Government of Liberia and LURD to enter immediately and without preconditions into negotiations on a ceasefire, as they have both committed to do," said a press statement which urged both parties to accept Mali as mediator on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The Group also agreed to call on the Security Council to consider authorizing a monitoring mechanism for the ceasefire.

While stressing the importance of free and fair elections in Liberia, the Group concluded that the conditions for such a ballot – including a ceasefire, security, a process of national reconciliation, electoral reform and respect for human rights – did not exist. The Liberian Government was urged “to act rapidly to create such conditions before elections are held.”

Towards that end, the Group agreed to request United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to consider sending a needs assessment team to Liberia, and urged the Government to cooperate with it.

The Group, which will meet again in two months' time, also agreed to maintain contact in Monrovia to facilitate its work.

Representatives of Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, the African Union, the European Union (EU), the ECOWAS Secretariat and the UN attended Friday’s meeting, which was co-chaired by Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, and the Special Representative of the EU’s Presidency to the Mano River Union countries, Hans Dahlgren.