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Government rejects calls for ceasefire

The Liberian government has rejected the call by the West African states' economic community (ECOWAS) for an immediate ceasefire between government troops and armed opposition fighters, saying this would give the rebels an opportunity to re-group.

The government was "baffled" by the call which suggested a parity between the government and the armed opposition fighters, Information Minister Reginald Goodridge, was reported by news agencies as saying, on Tuesday.

Liberia, was however, interested in a regional intervention force, as suggested by ECOWAS chairman, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal on Friday, the minister added.

"Calling for a ceasefire at a time when the Liberian government has already broken the back of a very large attack in Gbarnga, in Arthington and in Klay, will only give the terrorists the opportunity to regroup and attack Liberia," BBC quoted Goodridge as saying.

The minister urged the West African nations to instead address neighbouring "Guinea's support" to the opposition fighters. "We do know that it's the policy of most democratic governments in the world not to negotiate with terrorists," he said.

Wade had said ECOWAS members would consider creating a peacekeeping force to intervene in Liberia if negotiations between the government and rebels failed. But ECOWAS first wanted an immediate ceasefire, he told a news conference in Cote d'Ivoire's capital, Yamoussoukro.

At least 70,000 internally displaced people and their host communities in the Liberian town of Gbarnga, 224 km north of the capital, Monrovia, fled fighting between government troops and armed opposition fighters last week, an inter-agency assessment mission reported on Thursday.

Several towns that the armed opposition fighters of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) claimed to have taken last week, were regained by government troops.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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