Catholic Relief Services Urges U.S. Role in Liberia

Can’t Wait for President Taylor’s Departure, Says Agency

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, JULY 9, 2003 ( Catholic Relief Services joined the U.S. bishops’ conference in strongly encouraging President George W. Bush to support the deployment of an international stabilization force for Liberia.

«This is a most urgent matter,» the relief agency said in a press statement. «And it cannot wait for President Charles Taylor’s departure, which itself could unleash even more chaos and bloodshed if rebel and government forces vie for power and, potentially, take revenge against real and perceived enemies.»

Catholic Relief Services said its staff in the Liberian capital of Monrovia have reported armed men robbing and threatening to kill civilians believed to have advocated for Taylor’s exile.

Archbishop Michael Francis of Monrovia has stated his belief that if Taylor leaves the country before security forces arrive, government and rebel forces «would destroy the capital.» Archbishop Francis also has called for U.S. intervention.

Meanwhile, in Pretoria, South Africa, President Bush pledged today that the United States will «be involved» in war-torn Liberia but said he would not overextend U.S. armed forces if he sends troops there to join a peacekeeping force, the Associated Press said.

Catholic Relief Services, in its statement, said: «While the United States’ support to Liberia should be discrete, with a clearly defined exit strategy, it should be of a level and length of commitment that encourages Liberia’s return to economic and political viability; helps to usher in a fruitful Liberian peace process; and fosters regional stability.»

The relief group is marking its 60th year as the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community.

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